Barbara Brown Taylor, an Episcopal priest and award winning preacher (yes…there are such awards) wrote a book a few years back called Leaving Church: A Memoir of Faith. It’s stunningly beautiful; well worth reading. Within its pages she speaks of the church and its role in her life as well as what it was like for her to leave its pulpit, its pews, and in some ways, its people.
Though the following quote is long, it sets the stage for my thoughts:
…I have learned to prize holy ignorance more highly than religious certainty and to seek companions who have arrived at the same place. We are a motley crew, distinguished not only by our inability to explain ourselves to those who are more certain of their beliefs than we are but in many cases by our distance from the centers of faith communities as well. Like campers who have bonded over cook fires far from home, we remain grateful for the provisions that we have brought with us from those cupboards, but we also find them more delicious when we share them with one another under the stars.
This wilderness experience sets up a real dilemma for some of us, since we know how much we owe to the traditions that shaped us. We would not be who we are without them, and we continue to draw real sustenance from them, but insofar as those same traditions discourage us from being with one another, we cannot go home again. In one way or another, every one of us has gotten the message that God made us different that we might know one another, and that how we treat one another is the best expression of our beliefs.
- Prizing holy ignorance.
- How we treat one another is the best expression of our beliefs.
- Distinguished…by our inability to explain ourselves to those who more certain of their beliefs.
- We cannot go home again.
I do not want to return to religious certainty. In my movement from the patriarchal church I have stepped into realms and relationships (with others and the Divine) that have far surpassed anything I’d known or experienced prior. But I’ve also left much behind.
There are days when I miss hymns, communion, liturgy. Even more, there are days when I miss the surety of boundaried belief, of doctrine, of dos and don’ts, of language that rolled off my tongue and lodged in my heart, of God as Father.
Saying goodbye is hard, no matter how amazing and glorious the new “hello” might be.
I cannot go home again. I don’t want to. But that doesn’t mean I’m not homesick now and then.