Giving Up Church for Lent 2015

Spirituality Feb 18, 2015 No Comments
Photo by Ben Gray @photobgray

Now, now before you label me an apostate, a backslider, or claim that I lost Jesus in seminary, bear with me. On second thought, you really don’t have to, you can click away because this is really more of a journal entry for my own healing. I am not looking for affirmation or pity.

A few weeks ago, we withdrew our membership from our local church. This church had been in our lives for the past 12 years, a place where both our children were baptized, and a place where we worshipped heartily.

I will not go into the details of why we withdrew, partly because I’m not really sure. There are a lot of ‘reasons’ swirling around. Are they 10 Good Reasons To Leave Your Church, reasons? Maybe. Are they selfish, consumerism reasons (I-can-just-go-to-the-church-next-door-to-find-what-I-need, reason)? Possibly. Did God tell us to leave? Perhaps. My reasons seem pointless now that I have cast the die and my family is churchless.

What matters is that I am experiencing a mix of emotions: disconnected, lonely, scared, hurt, relieved, anticipation, free, hopeful, faithful.
It’s as if I am going through a divorce that had to happen yet it still hurts like hell. In the meantime, I have confidence that we are on a spiritual adventure.

Maybe I should back up and clarify what I mean by ‘giving up the church for Lent.”

  1. We are giving up having a membership at a little ‘c’ church.
  2. We are not giving up on the big ‘C’ universal, Church.
  3. We are not giving up Jesus (I can’t, I’m in love — I speak for myself here).
  4. We are giving up the cacophony of voices found at church.
  5. We are giving up the surface digging we all get stuck doing in ministry.
  6. We will not despise good preaching, nor give up the Sabbath. We will keep it holy — it will look different.

How? Culturally, Lent has meant to fast from something that may be keeping us from the love of God and neighbor (honestly, it’s been reduced to giving up something you really like). For Lutherans, it is not necessary to fast, but it is an opportunity to adopt the disciplines of meditation, prayer and renewal for a season of 40 days as we await the resurrection of Christ revealed on Easter.

If we examine spiritual practices of meditation, prayer and renewal, these require a removal of self. A sort of pulling away so that we might return anew. So, not quite a fast, but going to a deserted place (Mark1:29-39). And this is what I mean by giving up church for Lent.  We will be pulling away from a place that had become routine, a place where we had become comfortable, but also a place that seemed to cloud our vision. We weren’t so sure we were seeing clearly being in that place anymore. Ultimately, there is just a wisdom of knowing (The Wisdom Way of Knowing, Bourgeault) that one comes to trust, and that is what nudged us to go.

I trust that we will, and that we can obtain disciplines outside of a church membership —- at least for 40 days. I’ve asked the family to begin watching and listening for the voice of God in all that they do for the Lenten Season. We plan to:

  1. Visit churches, monasteries, cathedrals – even other denominations, but not with the intent to make it home, and “plug in”. The Eucharist and the Gospel really are healing.
  2. Appreciate community outside of the church.
  3. Ora et Labora – Continue running, hiking, being outside as a prayer practice.
  4. We will continue our family ritual of nightly Scripture reading and blessings.
  5. Participate in #pictureLent as we document Lent photographically.
For me, I want to go deeper:
  1. Kundalini Yoga twice a week.  This helps guide me into a meditative and prayerful state. (I should do another post about what I saw while lying on the floor during a Kundalini session).
  2. Continue using self-guided daily meditations on Scripture at, and and
  3. Journal
  4. Spiritual direction
  5. Restfulness – go to bed early
  6. Eat consciously
    • More fish
    • Multivitamins
    • Plenty of water
With this, I am hopeful that we will be renewed at the end of the Lenten season and ready to return to a deeper, more enlightened and focused dig into the ministry that God has already begun in the universe.
It just dawned on me that ministers and seminary professors are encouraged to take sabbaticals from their work and ministry, but active church members rarely consider a retreat. As followers of Christ, we tend to do, do, do and do until done.
I’m willing to give up church for 40 days so that I avoid, Done.


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