Friday, November 09, 2007

Home churching

We did a stint of home churching, that nutty scheme where one parent leads songs and the other gives sermons, and if you're a fundamentalist, it's always the man who talks and the woman who chirps.

In our case, I was fed up with weekly services in gymnasiums, converted warehouses, steeple-people brick buildings, theater in the round houses of worship, and build-to-suit auditoriums. After wandering in the Cincinnati ecclesiastic wilderness for over a year, I had no desire to meet in our living room. I had grad school (which was enough spiritual nourishment for me) and almost no desire to pray or sing or sermonize in a group. Jon, on the other hand, felt that the abrupt conclusion of our church quest would leave the middle kids especially feeling that we had abandoned all our beliefs. So for his sake and for the kids, I gave in.

Our first few weeks in the living room included a cassette player which pumped out Vineyard worship tunes. We stood, sang, raised our hands, closed our eyes, swayed... If you went to a Vineyard, you know what I mean. The middle kids stayed seated. It's a little weird when there are only seven of you.

We usually followed the singing with a Bible passage and discussion about what it meant, how we might apply it and I usually tacked on some historical criticism to make use of that degree I was earning. I mostly didn't pray. I was in the period of no prayer where any time I tried to pray, I felt like the biggest hypocrite. Jon prayed. I was grateful for that. But prayer and singing only lasted for about a year in our home church.

I mentioned in another post that Jon embarked on his own deconstruction process that was quite different than mine, though perhaps my process contributed to his on some level. He stumbled on a book by A.N. Wilson about Paul that he purchased and read for a Bible study we led about the book of Galatians. Wilson's book was followed by others, especially those that dealt with science and faith. Suddenly Jon found himself asking and answering his own questions which meant that our conversations became much less touchy.... for awhile.

A surprising side effect resulted from Jon's re-evaulation of his beliefs. I didn't like it. While I was the one asking the hard questions and discovering alternative answers, I had unwittingly relied on Jon to hold onto our original beliefs... for the kids, for me, just in case. It felt safe to play at the edges of doctrine when there was this anchor in the family who would still take the kids to church, who would still answer their hard questions with comfortable and familiar refrains.

Suddenly he was thinking thoughts and sharing new opinions... ones I didn't even hold. Worse, he drew what are known in the modern world as "conclusions." He moved into new positions, painted the walls and added a sectional. As a postmodern, I prided myself on sketches, architectural design schemes and flipping through magazines for new ideas. Ambiguity, reluctance to commit, openness to multiple positions, reserving judgment—these were my new cherished values. I imagined that anyone sincere in deconstruction would feel reluctant to switch allegiances too quickly or completely. Not so for Jon. He made changes faster than I asked questions.

But what did I know? This was his process, not mine. When he came to a new point of view, he shared it, with conviction, just like he'd always expressed himself. I had to regroup and allow for that difference between us. It was hard. Especially when I thought about the kids. What would the kids do with all this change so suddenly?

For a long while (over a three year period), we continued our weekly homechurch ritual, but it evolved. No more singing. Discussion of biblical passages now meant walking a tightrope - expressing our changing beliefs without overstating them or causing too much dissonance. Now the discussion of verses included Jon's ideas which were not identical with mine which were no longer identical with evangelical teachings. Johannah asked to be taken back to our old church (we accommodated). Noah opted out all together. And the younger kids stuck with us until we got sick of listening to ourselves.


Bilbo said...

Hi Julie,

I always find it interesting the evolution of a person's or families spiritual journey. Thanks for sharing. So where are you and Jon right now? Your comments imply you don't do the home church anymore...and...what is your and Jon's attitude towards the Institutional church in general?...Just curious... After self exile from the Evangelicalism I stopped going to church, for the most part, for about seven years but have been attending a Congregational church regularly since January. I decided, for me, I needed a church that was inclusive, on numerous fronts, and I finally stumbled onto one...

Steve said...


This feels sad. Something like the last breaths of some wonderful and mysterious beast. And now, in the silence, your family must move on. What will that look like, and what do your kids think, do you suppose?

I find it interesting that you just bailed on all organized Christian faith. This feels to me like a form of blanket....well, for lack of a better word, judgement, on all things Christian.

Certainly there could be other ways, but also certainly, they will not be easy. I won't make suggestions, surely you have tried some. I keep thinking that there is a community of faith, a home, for you and Jon, at least, out there. Faith in the living room, without community, seems impossible. I think our friend Dietrich, would agree.

Where are you both now? I still don't know if I "get it"...and where is Jon?

I like hearing your honest story much, and want you to paint in the details.

Peace to All Bogarts.

PS: Milan?

SusansPlace said...

Been there done that...for about a year. I played the piano and John read. Kids asked questions.


Kansas Bob said...

"expressing our changing beliefs without overstating them or causing too much dissonance"

That is the essence of harmony.. in a sense.. being passionate without overstating.. listening without judging.. marks of secure people.. not that I can relate :)

Thanks for sharing this part of your journey Julie.