Madwoman Out of the Attic

a feminist trudging forward in a patriarchal world

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Taking my Church Sabbatical

(This is cross posted at Exponent Blog)

Last Sunday I returned to church for the first time in two months after having Baby E. I had decided late in my pregnancy, when virtually no clothes fit and I was huge and uncomfortable, that going to church when one is nine months pregnant was not a priority. And then after I had the baby, the doctor was surprisingly firm about not taking the baby to church until he was six weeks old. Thus my two month sabbatical from church was born.

During those two months of Sundays, I generally stayed at home to take care of baby, while Mike was gone from 8 AM until the afternoon. (Side note: Sundays suck when one’s spouse goes to up to seven hours of meetings and leaves one home alone to cope with crying infant.) Towards the end of that two months, however, I had begun to miss worship services, and for some reason I wasn’t feeling up to going to my own ward, so I decided I’d attend my local favorite non-LDS church, the United Church of Christ.

I love it there. I love the thoughtful, professional, academic sermons the pastor gives. I love the upbeat energetic hymns and choir performances led by a local professor of choral music. I LOVE it when that same professor and music leader would lead the congregation in meditative singing, as he sings the cantor part. That part always gives me chills of joy. I love the infant quiet room, which is encased in glass and right in the midst of the congregation. I love the fact that women often conduct the meetings and that sometimes female guest pastors come to lead the service. Above all, I love its inclusive Christian message of loving and inviting all people to worship.

Every time I go to this church, I become more strongly determined to live a thoughtful Christian life. I become interested in praying again. It is wholly a positive experience.

I’ve felt similarly inspired and uplifted by attending other religions’ services. It makes me happy to see so many people thoughtfully communing with God in diverse and beautiful ways, and it inspires me to try to connect with God in new ways as well.

Because of these uplifting experiences I have had attending various worship sessions, and because I sometimes become frustrated, bored, and depressed by the status quo in my own faith tradition, I have become convinced that taking sabbaticals from my ward and attending other churches occasionally – particularly churches whose message personally resonates – is healthy for me. Doing this nourishes my spirit. It reconnects me with God. It fills me with joy to see people finding their paths to Him and Her. It even gives me the strength to renew my relationship with God within my own religion.

What have been your experiences with taking sabbaticals from Church, positive or negative? Is it wrong, from an LDS perspective, to skip out on Sacrament Meeting occasionally to attend other services? What’s a good balance of maintaining active Church attendance but also enjoying other services?

4 Comments:

Anonymous Bored in Vernal said...

Being a convert to the Church from a fundamentalist Christian background, I fing myself sneaking off to other churches every once in a while. I don't do it too often, because I don't want to "put my hand to the plow and then turn back." But let's face it, Mormons don't do joy, and they don't do Easter. The joy Mormons speak of comes with a quiet, peaceful feeling. But where do you go when you want to express your love for the Savior with dancing and tambourines?

Perhaps the strongest testimony I ever felt for the Savior happened on one such occasion. It was Easter, and also General Conference. I dressed up, as I had in my youth, and put on a big hat. Then I went to a Christian Easter service. Near the end of the meeting, the choir burst into loud praises, and down the aisle came a man with a beard on a real donkey!!!He passed right by where I was sitting. I could have reached out and touched the hem of his robe. At that instant, I knew with all my being that Jesus was a real man who had actually lived on this earth. I will never forget that moment.

10/05/2006 7:07 PM  
Blogger amelia said...

i don't think there's a thing wrong with going to other worship services. if it helps you renew your own spirituality, do it.

but these congregations are no more ideal than your own mormon one. you go to them as an outsider, a visitor who isn't part of that community. maybe you can become a part of it. i don't know. maybe other church's congregations don't have the kinds of problems that bother you in your own mormon congregation. but i very seriously doubt it. people are people whether they are mormon or jewish or baptist or unitarian universalist. while it looks idyllic and peaceful and oh so much better to an outsider, i doubt the reality is any more perfect than the reality of a mormon congregation, although the imperfections may be different in nature. there's a danger in idealizing something in contrast to your own background.

so go. get your spiritual refreshment. take a break from your ward on occasion. enjoy the renewal. but recognize the humanity of the place that you seem to find so idyllic.

10/06/2006 10:04 AM  
Blogger Caroline said...

Bored, you're so right. Mormons don't do joy like other churches do. I love your story of the man with a donkey.

Amy, I'm sure you're right that IUCC has it's problems as well. Politics, feuds, etc. may exist. But as an outsider who goes to simply enjoy and think about my relationship with god, it is wonderful. So refreshing to be in a place where women can lead the congregation and where so many sermons and hymns promote social justice, peace, and inclusive Christian love. Gives me a spiritual high. and I'm not one that ever really feels the spirit.

10/09/2006 11:07 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i've occasionally attended African-American Baptist churches when i've felt like it because i think they have more fun than we Mormons do, especially with the music. once, on Easter Sunday, my whole family went. we had a lovely time. but Amy's right that as an outsider we probably idealize our experience. it doesn't make it any less joyful, however.

10/11/2006 4:47 PM  

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