Note from CM: Good to hear from our friend from the north country, Mike Bell, today. As remains the case for many of us, the ecclesiastical journey continues for Mike. Here’s his latest update.
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Seventeen. That is the number of churches that I have been involved in, each for more than a year. It may seem like a lot, but most of the changes were for fairly innocuous reasons.
Many of the changes have been as a result of moves. London, England to Peterborough, Ontario, to Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, back to Peterborough, on to university in London, Ontario, up after graduation to Ottawa, Ontario, west to Regina, Saskatchewan for more education, and finally back east to Hamilton, Ontario for work.
Two of changes were as a result of church closures. One was a requirement for denominational accreditation. One because of feeling that God was calling me in a different direction. Only two were primarily as a result of theological or philosophical differences.
The last change was definitely the hardest. We had been at our church for eight years, longer than I had been at any other church since my childhood. I agonized about my decision for two years before I made the final break. I don’t want to get into why I felt I had to leave, but rather experiences in trying to find a new church.
I am an extrovert. I make new acquaintances easily. I remember six weeks into our last church a church member asked me “How long have you been here now?” “Six weeks,” I replied. “Wow,” she said. “It seems like forever.”
Sliding into that church had been pretty easy. My wife had been involved with a ladies Bible Study for a number years prior to attending. I knew a couple of people from soccer. The church very quickly felt like family. One of the things that became very important to me was the relationships we had built up in our small group. That was the hardest thing to let go.
At least I thought I was an extrovert. Finding a church this time around was extremely difficult. There were three churches that we visited that I think could have worked. One where I was impressed with their eclectic music selection (music is very important to me.) At another I was impressed with the friendliness of the people and the welcome I received. The third had some strong points as well.
But the same thought struck me as I visited each of these churches: “I don’t think I have the energy to try and build another set of relationships. I don’t know that I can go into a new situation and start all over again.” It seemed incredibly difficult and I wondered if how I was feeling was how an introvert might feel going into a new situation.
We did find a church that we have settled upon. We have been there over a year now. We still feel pretty anonymous, though the small group we attend has certainly helped. I did have a few prior connections to some of families within the small group: A guy with whom I had played soccer; a co-coach in hockey; a guy I had met at a mission conference years ago and knew by reputation; a family whose kids I had coached in soccer.
Our season of change is nearing an end. Through it I have had a new appreciation of how difficult change can be, especially for those who might find making relationships difficult. It has helped me see with a different set of eyes what walking into a new church can be like for many. I think that it also encourages me to be of help to others who find themselves in similar circumstances.