I found myself at a concert this week, one of the bands that I’ve been following for the past 6 months of my shit filled life.
Their music is so good. It’s one of the few bands that embraces the balance of light and dark. They sing from their souls and write from their hope. It’s a beautiful thing.
In fact I keep wanting to say, “I went to church this weekend.” And would if I thought you’d understand what I mean.
See, what I mean is I experienced what I had hoped church would be.
Which means, my experience of church was shitty.

I wish I could say it was a person. Or a community, or even a building that marred my experience, but I’ve spent over half of my life in church building across the states and across the denominational divides.

Eventually I’d experienced too much pain to keep attending.
At some point you realize, shit this hurts and that’s not cool.

Verbs of church experience:
Isolation. Shame talk. Impersonal interactions. Discrimination of my looks, my language, my lifestyle.
I’ve walked in to bars with more genuine humans than any church building I’ve yet to step into.

But Before you give me your top 5 churches, just listen.

I stopped going.
I recanted
Jesus died in church.

I consider myself Areligious.
I’m not trying to find divinity.
I’m not interested stepping foot into a tomb.

“Wow Ember, that shit is dark.”
Yes, sure, of course.

But my journey didn’t end in a tomb. And I’m not concerned about an afterlife.

See, my experience has been hell. Hell and all it’s demons bent on extinguishing my existence. Demons of depression, self harm, alcoholism, eating disorders, suicide attempts, isolation to the point of not speaking g to people for weeks at a time, loss of my family, loss of identity, loss of home, job loss, the list could go on, but my point is,

I’m not dead.
I don’t wish to be dead.
For me, right now that means not stepping foot in organized religion.

That’s hard. It’s what I few up in, it is all I have known.

I’ve been in this space for a long time now though, so the terror of lightning striking me ended a about a year ago.

So why do I want to call this music group akin to something so horrible?

Good question.
I asked myself for 3 days and have this as an answer.

It was vulnerable. It was honest. It was the recognition of bloodied feet, and silenced voices, it was a room full of grief, loss, kooky shenanigans and hope. Where no one was performing, and strangers were made to feel like family because they were human, and for no other reason.

I guess I like to think this is what church should be.
What heaven might look like.
Like a love that enters the depths of hell
And invites every goddamn broken heart to a place of not aloneness.

Wouldn’t it be something
To find Jesus in hell?

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  • Wonderful surprise when some of your words landed in my inbox. I considered writing a thesis, back in the day when I was in school, about how some concerts were the new church. Because they felt that way to me. Thank you for sharing your impressions.

  • Jerry Sledge

    I know what you mean. I, too, left institutional corporation called (miss named) church. I even tried “organic church” and the judgemental-ism was still there. Currently attending a small church, friendly people and they have a meal after every Sunday service. If the friendly people get not so friendly, it’s easy to walk away. I’ve had lots of practice.

    That and a religion over beer discussion (a meetup group) at the Flying Saucer beer emporium. $3 Texas drafts on Sundays. Definitely no judgment there.

  • Love this. I think you’re awesome.

  • Addie

    Im with you… there is one Red album (the band, not Taylor Swift) and its like they plugged their guitars straight into my heart and the distortion brings me to my knees… it brings me closer to God than church ever did.
    I left church over a year ago and haven’t looked back…. but that doesn’t mean I left God – I find He is faithful (but not in the typical “church”-y way, I suppose that Im used to hear taught) more than the church. The church only brought hurt into my life so I left and no one cared which only cemented my beliefs about it. I am finding that I just don’t think God cares if I go to a building every week – no need to sacrifice myself on the alter of tradition – God doesn’t require that…. He never did – no matter what weve been taught. He is still going to be there when Im ready and both of us are ok with that.

  • Raewyn Shand

    So good to hear your words again. I have missed you.
    I really like this paragraph.

    I guess I like to think this is what church should be.
    What heaven might look like.
    Like a love that enters the depths of hell
    And invites every goddamn broken heart to a place of not aloneness.

    Please keep writing. Your words resonate so much.
    Walking with you as you journey on xxx