church-ing

A and I have been meaning to find a church since we officially made downtown Toronto our permanent address… in May of 2012. Yes, it’s been over a year without having a regular church to visit and it feels odd…  I did a google search of downtown churches and we checked out a few… but came away not quite feeling connected. We found one that we plugged into a little bit, but with A’s unpredictable schedule it soon became obvious that the time required by the church just wouldn’t fit with us. And I didn’t want to plug into the church alone… there’s something about now being a “we” that changes the ‘finding a church’ game.  Sometime in the first few months of Toronto church-hunting, a forgotten gnawing feeling returned inside of me….

I grew up as an expat child and the church of my childhood was really what dreams were made of. I don’t mean that it was perfect or that we all got along all the time… but we were a family, literally. We were all from other countries but living, working or going to school in Alexandria, Egypt. All of our relatives were far, far away. So, we literally were each other’s families. We didn’t go to church on Christmas Eve and then spend Christmas with our families. We went to church on Christmas morning and then spent Christmas with each other.  It built a sort of community that I know I will never ever experience again in a church…

So I walked into the first church and youth group in Toronto with an open heart… ready to accept a new church as it presented itself… but to be honest, I was shocked at what I felt… a popularity contest.

And I wish I could say it was only that church. But almost every church or Christian group I’ve walked into in Toronto has had an obvious “cheerleader” group – a group of girls that everyone knows and that everyone wants to be / or be associated with (i’m strictly speaking from a female perspective) or, as I’ve grown older, the cheerleader group is now more a generic “popular” group… filled with couples and singles who go way back… they may be nice enough to bring you over and ask a few questions, but soon they launch into inside jokes or some funny story… and now and then someone will interrupt to explain a bit of context to you… but then jokes are less funny when you have to do that… so you end up excusing yourself so they can go on with the merriment that you’re obviously impeding. oddly as well, i’ve felt like the odd one out… so many Toronto Christians are attractive, fit, active, very in-the-know of cool music/art or underground stuff, parents who were wealthy / reasonably well-off… and i’ve often felt just not good enough or too different…

Before the recent move to Toronto, I got to be in Kingston for 3 years…We had a small law school Christian group… filled with individuals who were once again far away from home, from family, from comfort zones…. and by God’s grace, a local lawyer opened up his home to us, cooked us a dinner on Wednesday nights and led us in some intense bible studies. Intense in that he was a wealth of knowledge and could spend an hour long study on five words in one verse… after which, you’d leave with a fully belly and mind blown. it was awesome. and something about those dinners made me remember the family-Christian-group-feeling that I had so missed.

and then we moved back to Toronto, and that all familiar church-ing dread returned…. and with that, a significant area of sadness in my life with respect to not having many christian friends, in particular, girlfriends. and couple friends for A and I. it has been a part of my regular prayers… i felt like many christian girlfriends i know already had their groups and their bonds…and once again, i’d be the outsider looking in, hoping someone would invite me to play… or could bear the discomfort of a new person joining their well-established clique. an inconvenience who wasn’t good enough or just didn’t share the same memories, childhood, whatever it is… that makes me feel so different…

all this to say… today there was a glimmer of hope. a new church visited. a small tiny church filled with people our age and with jobs (a post on why that’s important to me to be saved for another day!) and of various shapes, sizes, economical backgrounds, colours… most importantly, people who, despite obviously having friends in the congregation, weaved over to A and I to chat. A and I later mused at how it wasn’t just a ‘hi i’m so and so, welcome to our church’ and small talk. they actually talked to us for a good 15-20 mins at a time, such that an hour went by of us meeting and having solid conversations with people. it made me really happy. i realize this was a first impression and that time may go by and i’ll feel not good enough again or too different… but there was definitely something different. definitely something that gave me a glimmer of hope. that God heard my prayers and is maybe slowly creaking a door open.