“Stephanie, why is it that you don’t go to church?” A friend of mine recently caught me off-guard with this question. So, I tried explaining to her what really wasn’t clear in my mind at the time. I gave her the usual spiel about not liking mega preachers, not feeling a sense of fellowship yada, yada, yada. But rolling this question around in my mind later, I had more questions than answers: Why don’t I go to church? I used to go to church, what happened? Am I going back to church?
Though most of my friends are regular church-goers (as is this one), no one ever point-blank asked me why I didn’t go to church. I never explained why I didn’t go anymore than they had to explain why they went. My standing joke whenever people talked about church was that I had back slid so far that I was standing still. And it’s not that I’m anti-church; I go when I want, but I don’t go regularly even though my name is on the membership role of a local church. My spotty church attendance dates back to my childhood.
Unlike many African-American families, mine was not a church-going family, but we were neither atheist nor agnostic; we believed in God. But God showed up in our house in different ways. I grew up in an eclectic Christian-based household. On Sundays we listened to church on the radio, and watched Jubilee Showcase on TV. We only went to church on Easter, and for me it was more about the fashion than the faith because I always got a new outfit.
I am from a house where we had to be quiet during thunderstorms because God was doing His work; I carry a protective Saint in my car to avoid accidents. Then there was the round Buddha- like figure that sat and still sits on my mother’s dresser. For some it smacks of blasphemy, but for me it was about finding God in various places and spaces.
Even though I started attended church semi-regularly as a teenager and then as an adult, my thoughts constantly returned to the spirituality of my childhood. My upbringing allowed God to be bigger than a name or a place to me. It allowed to me to accept that there is more than one path to God. One of those paths is church, and I do venture down that path from time to time, not just every Sunday.