Monday, November 21, 2011

Church Shopping

There are all sorts of analogies which can be applied to the process of finding a new church congregation to be a part of when moving to a new city. Given my past experiences with moving to a new city, I wasn't expecting the process to be so laborious that it would need an analogy, but alas, the Boston church hunt was not as easy as the Charlottesville church hunt (first one I went to was amazing AND I found the best small group ever) or the Edmonton church hunt (some 20 years ago... again, the first church our family went to was having a picnic and that was enough to garner our loyalty...).

Anyway, the most fitting analogy that I can find regarding finding a church is one on dating. As with dating, the first thing you do is find some sort of superficial characteristic by which you can judge whether a church is worth a visit. In my case, a whole variety of characteristics appealed: young adults group, church plant by my favourite pastor Tim Keller, recommendation from a friend, good music. Some churches lost my interest after a first visit (we didn't make it past the first date). Others I tried out small groups or attended multiple Sundays. After a few weeks, not feeling particularly well on a Sunday morning, I got frustrated and simply gave up altogether. I won't say that I attended "Pillow Pentecostal" or "Bedside Baptist" because I think that's a cop out, but I also didn't drag myself across town to find a church.

With some churches, it wasn't that there was anything wrong with them, it was just that they didn't quite fit right. I didn't see the connection, and while I didn't see it at the time, it was because God was directing me to the place I have ended up.

Anyway, I came across Mosaic in a completely unsuspecting way. There was a T ad that caught my eye every morning. I didn't think anything of it until I was doing a search on Google for something completely unrelated to church, and an ad popped up there. Following the ad brought me to the webpage, at which point I discovered that two of my favourite superficial church characteristics were met: it was a ten-minute walk away and the services were at 10:45 a.m. (A Goldilocks time: not too early, not too late)

Still debating Saturday night over which church to go to, I slept in on Sunday morning and my timing to get to Mosaic was perfect. I went to the first service and... well, it was fine.

Mosaic may never have made it to a second date, except that I just had a feeling... and being lazy, the default is always to attend the closest church with the most convenient time.

Something amazing happened the second Sunday I attended Mosaic. In case you are not familiar with how church works (and have somehow made it this far), community happens something like this: at some point in the sermon, someone at the front tells everyone to stand up and greet their neighbour (at my Cville church, we were supposed to give them a "high five, handshake or hug"). Everyone stands up, has a brief conversation with their neighbour, and promptly sits down and forgets the person sitting beside, in front or behind them. At the end of the service, if you came alone and don't know anyone, you duck out without being noticed, and if you want to find "community" in a church, you join a small group or volunteer.

There was no mid-service greeting time at Mosaic. Instead, as I was ready to make my I-don't-know-if-this-is-where-I-want-to-attend bolt out of the door, someone came up to me and said "hello." Completely unprompted by the pastor! Say whaaaaaaaaaaaaaa...? After talking to her, as I was leaving, the pastor shook my hand at the door, had a lengthy conversation with me, and told me we should go for coffee.

I'd be lying if I said I was sold right there. That very afternoon I saw another T ad for a church only a five minute walk away. I considered trying THAT one out, but when I went to the Mosaic community group on Wednesday night and everyone was so WELCOMING, I decided against trying something new. In the dating analogy, I was seeing Mosaic almost exclusively.

Anyway, this past Friday, Mosaic and I had the equivalent of the "DTR" (define the relationship talk). It was a "family meeting" and we talked about membership classes. Membership classes are pretty much the equivalent of church marriage, except until death do us part, it's until a move to a new city do us part. While part of me feels some commitment phobia, I also feel excited about what God is doing in and through Mosaic, and I desperately want to be in on the ground floor.

But, more importantly, Mosaic is a place where I've found community. When I said someone greeted me after the service however many Sundays ago, I was underemphasizing the quality of the community. This is a church where people hang out on their own volition, everyone looks out for one another, people stay after church to eat together (I'm cooking this Sunday - lasagna, if you're interested and live in Boston!) and everyone genuinely cares. I can't even begin to tell you all the amazing experiences I've had over the past few weeks, but I'm so happy and excited.

I know that, just like falling in love, I'm in the honeymoon stage. There will be bumps along the way. But commitment means getting the good and the bad and it means holding on and fighting for great community when obstacles come up. In the meantime, I'm just going to soak in the blessings and spend my days grinning widely.

PS I don't actually know anything about dating or falling in love, so hopefully my analogy is accurate.