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UpBeat Spiritual Living: Guided to the Right Church for You

July 19, 2011

Seville Cathedral. Photo by Carol Young.

Sometimes, we do things because we feel curious, and other times we do things because we feel guided or directed.  Perhaps our “curiosity” is actually the whisper of Guidance that we are hearing, yet not consciously thinking about.  When we move toward decision-making, especially about something so important as finding the church where we are meant to be, we need to pick up both the small and blatant signals that Heaven has for us.  Here is a story of getting both subtle and insistent signals from God.

Some time ago, my husband and I were inspired to visit an historic church near our home.  We were charmed by it being part of a major church organization, as well as by its lovely buildings and desert landscaping.  We imagined it might be a stable, long-term church home for us.  We talked with staff and volunteers, and we visited for various services.

Our final visit to this church was filled with strange moments.  Prior to the service, we again introduced ourselves as a couple looking for a new church home.  Several people were very friendly.  As the service began, we noticed two men were advertising a car repair business by wearing t-shirts emblazoned with its name.  A woman was playing on an IPad; at first we thought she was reading a Bible on an e-Reader, but then we saw she was playing a game.  Why was she there?  A father was playing games and high-fiving with his two sons sitting in the row in front of him.  Why were they there?  Were they experiencing God?

For the second hymn,  the organist played a very beautiful hymn that was unrelated to the listed hymn number, and everyone was lost.  No one knew where the extra communion wafers were, and the visiting pastor had to ask for them twice.  Whose job was it to be sure the visiting pastor had what she needed for the communion service?  Four program  items toward the end of the service were skipped entirely without comment.  At the end of the truncated service, I went to the receiving line to talk with the visiting pastor, and she kept talking about my beautiful blouse, no matter what I said.  The church’s program and website say that they always have coffee and fellowship after the service, but nothing was said or seen in the way of fellowship. Did I just imagine that the lead usher looked embarrassed?

The several people who had been friendly to us before the service were nowhere to be seen after the service.   No one asked how we had enjoyed the service or said they wished we would come again.  I kept thinking, “not my job, man!”  Perhaps all the people who create harmony and cohesiveness for this church were all away, at a conference together?  Or were there some underlying major tides of conflict and fragmentation in this church?

Extraordinary: one hint and signal after another that this was not our place.  We had struggled to find contact and communion with God in a disjointed service with people who perhaps were not really interested in God.   We left as quickly as possible.  We felt disturbed.  It took hours for us to feel oriented, calm, and centered again.  It could not have been made more clear that this was not the church for us.

We listened and did not return to the lovely church.  What signals is Heaven giving you through discomfort and disharmony?  Are you listening?  Will you take a different path?

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Rev. Kebba Buckley Button is the author of the new book, Peace Within.  Reach her at kebba@kebba.com .

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