Tuesday, 11 June 2013

Three Questions (or ‘Headstrong’ Part II)

The second question had to do with why I don’t attend regional church programs.

Regional programs are those meetings/events that bring all members of one overall church from different branches together as one. I’m sure these programs serve many different purposes. The ones I can think of off the top of my head are: They provide a forum for getting to know everyone else in your city (and even beyond) that attends the same overall church as you, but not necessarily your branch. They foster a greater feeling of oneness in churches with a vision of having lots of conveniently-located branches – particularly since such churches risk getting ‘out of hand’ due to the sheer numbers of their membership. And so, these meetings actually also help the overall leadership guage the collective pulse of their extensive membership and keep all church branches in a certain region abreast of important developments at the same time. They represent one way of doing the extremely difficult job of overseeing several churches at once.

I’m a ‘small’ church kind of person. I’ve always naturally gravitated toward smaller congregations. I suppose that’s the case for a lot of introverts. I like the easy-going, informal, family feel of small groups. That was part of my attraction to my current church. To be fair, when I went through the formal procedures of becoming an actual member of the church, I had no inkling what role ‘The Region’ was expected to play in my life. I remained blissfully oblivious for several years, actually. I would hear the announcements about regional programs and think to myself, ‘How nice that this is available to whoever wants to attend,’ without it occurring to me that I should participate. Little did I realize that as one who served in some department of the church, attending these meetings was mandatory, and I was supposed to know this. Whoever took me through the church membership procedures must have left that part out.

The idea of attending regional programs makes me feel like I belong to two totally different churches, even though I realize this isn’t the intention. It’s just a bit ‘much’ for me, and actually quite disorienting. We ‘Phlegmatics’ are known for our low energy levels. There’s just not enough to go round and so it has to be apportioned carefully. As I can barely keep up with all the programs in my own church branch, adding on another layer of church activity is just unfathomable. There was a time when I could have done it – when I was younger and without responsibilities. In those days, I used to live for church programs and I enjoyed every bit of doing so.

That was then, though. Today, with parenthood and a high-stress job, I secretly pat myself on the back for even being able to sustain my current level of church involvement. I’ve told my pastor honestly that I don’t believe I need to be in every single church meeting. But I will do what I can to be there for as much as I feel I can handle at this point in my life.

As I relayed this information to my visitors, there was some understanding of where I was coming from. I wasn’t the only one that was surprised by how large ‘The Region’ would loom after joining what I thought was my little church branch. The issue of being ‘under authority’ re-emerged. I thought about this a bit. I could see how I might be perceived as ‘unserious,’ as ‘disobedient,’ as ‘disrespectful,’ or as having a chip on my shoulder if I’m absent from these meetings when I’m expected to be present. But I don’t think emotions such as guilt or the need to appear a certain way in others’ eyes (or even respect for others) should be my motivation for attending meetings that are meant to draw me closer to God. The last thing I want to do is spread myself too thin, making technical appearances (which is what many of them would be for me), and attending anything and everything when I actually don’t want to – and then start grumbling behind everyone’s back about it.

Call me stubborn, call me crazy, call me not-Christian-enough. All I’m trying to be, though, is balanced. Balanced for me, that is, as I am the one that has to cope with all the moving pieces of my life. I can’t stand biting off more than I can chew. I don’t do so well when that happens. 

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