Before I returned to church I asked God for a sign as to whether I should return to the church which I left as a young adult or whether I needed to move on to another church for a fresh start. I returned to the church which you could say I grew up in and it had certainly changed in those years I had been away. The pastor’s son was now senior pastor, they had not only moved to a new building but were now using a school for their Sunday service having out grown the building they built. And not only were there so many new faces but it felt like very few remained from those years when I was part of the church and everyone knew each other.
The thing is that the church was not only the thing to have changed in those years as I had certainly changed. Having battled gambling addiction, debt and ill health, which not only led to depression but it also led to me becoming even more introverted than I was as a teen. As such whilst on my return to the church there were some old faces who remembered me the whole thing was a bit of a culture shock and certainly made me feel a bit like a fish out of water, use to swimming in my own bowl for one hidden away from the World and suddenly finding myself in this pond with lots of other fishes keen to welcome the newcomer.
Now in a way this reminds me of a movie which for a while I loved; that movie was “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” and for those who haven’t seen it, it is a culture clash comedy as a Greek woman falls for an American and introduces him to her very Greek family. You see for many years I dated an Italian woman and as such I got to encounter the Italian family culture both here in Britain and also in Italy which was not too dissimilar to that to the Greek family culture in the movie. As a Brit it was truly a shock when I compared it to my own family life and it took some time to get use to.
You see if I look at my family we rarely see each other, maybe coming together for Christmas, birthdays, weddings, major illnesses and deaths. You could say we get together for triumphs, trials and tragedies. But for the rest of the year we rarely see each other, most of the family have moved many miles away and a phone call usually means someone wants to know something, wants some thing or is inviting others over as it is near a birthday. Maybe other British families are different but we are definitely not what I would call a close family.
But then there was the Italian family who you could say lived in each others pockets. They lived nearby to each other, would see each other daily and often shared meals especially on a Sunday when one family or another would play host to everyone else having already spent much of Saturday together. They weren’t just there for the triumphs, trials and tragedies they were there for each other every day and not because the wanted something but because they were family. Maybe it is because I never had that closeness as a family I grew to love the closeness of that Italian family even if at times I found it a little too much when suddenly more family would show up unannounced and everyone would squeeze around the table.
As such my return to church felt like the first time I met the entire Italian family with everyone wanting to talk to you, welcome you and encourage you to be part of the family, with the exception of the Italian father who took some time to warm to me. And as I said it was a bit of a culture shock to suddenly find myself in this big church family especially when I remembered it when it had just 50 families and felt extremely close knit. Truthfully it has taken a little time to adjust to being in a big church with people who are not only available and enjoy seeing you but when they say come to dinner they mean it. There is nothing like having this new family all of who have their quirks, their pasts and some who you wouldn’t expect it but end up kindred spirits.
Why do I mention this? I suppose I was a good example of the way this World seems to be going, where we isolate ourselves from each other, relying on technology to communicate. We allow ourselves to become fragmented as families, not eating together, not discussing what is going on in life and not being open to friendships, some times suspicious of other people’s motives, even our own family. And as such maybe for those who either return to church after a long time or come for the first time it can be extremely over whelming to suddenly find all these people who want to be family. But whilst it may take effort on your part it is worth it especially when you realise you are no longer the newcomer but are part of that family.