I have lost the ability to shop. I walked into H&M the other day and, after a few minutes of joking with another customer about the futility sorting through dresses on the sale rack, I walked out.
But this thing I’ve been doing lately, this business of getting my bearings in church and visiting different parishes each week? Some people have a term for it.
They call it “church shopping”.
I absolutely positively hate that phrase.
I googled “church shopping” and was a little disappointed to find an article on it in Relevant magazine. I kindof thought I liked Relevant magazine. Or, I like the video they just posted of that sweet new Jars of Clay song.
But they make a good point, right there in the tagline of the article: “figuring out what really matters when searching for a faith community”.
It’s true. This terrible phrase for looking for a church is just a quaint way of saying that we’re figuring out what matters. And I wondered exactly that last Sunday, as I sat in the pew at a local chapel and wondered what brought the small but diverse crowd together.
I couldn’t help but think that the soprano leading hymns from the back of the sanctuary was probably there to earn enough spare cash to cover her phone bill. Or, the mother with two young girls chose this church because it was the closest walk from the nearby housing project. The man in the nice suit, who laughs loudly at all the sermon jokes? Surely he feels good about how much of the budget comes out of his personal financial contributions; surely he’s proud to mention his presence on the board of this tiny parish when convincing clients that he’s community-minded.
All of which is to say: I’m a judgmental a**hole.
And, we all have different reasons for going to church.
And: all those reasons are probably okay. I mean, it’s not going to kill anyone if a singer leads the hymns nicely and thus manages to pay her bills on time.
If I’m honest with myself, I’m not really looking for a church right now. I’m in a place where I need to sort out who I am before I can sort out what I want in a church. So let’s not call it “church shopping”. Let’s call it what it is: figuring out our place in the world.