Here, in the South (now, I realize Virginia is only the tip of the iceberg; I have not experienced the deep South), there is an air of nationalism that makes me nervous. There seems to be an expectation that if you love God, you will be unwavering in your patriotism, and always vote Republican. This expectation is one of the reasons that I've been avoiding Baptist churches, since they always seem to be the most nationalistic. (I could go off on a rabbit trail here, but I choose not to. If you want to know what I mean about nationalism, ask me in a different forum.)
So, if I'm avoiding Baptist churches, what's left?
In the past, I've been a part of the EFCA, and IFCA (admittedly, my church was fairly progressive for the IFCA). I write the IFCA off, because, you know, it's the South. What happens when one combines fundamentalism and the Southern spirit? I don't really want to know. No offense.
I look up the EFCA, and find a church that is several miles away. It seems to be a fairly conservative, run of the mill, evangelical church. No problem, right?
Introduce Sabrina's Problem. Or, if you will, Sabrina's Quest.
I've been finding over the past several years that typical evangelical churches leave me wanting for something more (yes, the church I grew up with). You've got your worship teams + slides for music, your once-a-month communion, the focal point of the service, which is the sermon. There's usually no good visual art, lending itself to worship. Add to the fact that seminary has ruined my ability to politely sit in church and take everything in without analysis; this means I examine everything. (Not that I never examined anything before, but seminary just gave me more ammo.) In summary, a typical evangelical service does nothing for my spiritual personality, unless the sermon feeds my mind & soul.
I've been slowly discovering that my mind & soul need to connect with something more meaningful than praise songs and a sermon and communion once a month. I need substance and beauty that I can see AND hear. I need some kind of connection with a tradition. (Last year, I was blessed to have the opportunity to plan a Sunday communion service for my beloved IFCA church in which I may have threw some for a loop, but I am not counting on that opportunity again anytime soon.)
Well, there are a couple United Methodist churches down the street. Okay. Over all, pretty watery for Sabrina. Watery sermon, bland music, although the sanctuary was gorgeous.
There's also an Episcopal church down the street. Not my first choice, for a number of reasons, but I want to see if highly structured liturgy feeds me, and if the beauty of the old church lends to worship. There's beautiful, historic liturgy. An okay sermon that did little for me. Hymns accompanied by organ and choir. A gorgeous place of worship. A focus on communion. But...something seemed missing to my evangelical self. There's a prayer for the dead that I don't understand, an overall sense of dullness amongst the parishioners, and I already mentioned the sermon.
I think I can do better, so I look up the ACNA, find Church of the Good Shepherd, and write the pastor, asking for a ride on Sunday. I received a very gracious response, and when I finally made it on Sunday, everything clicked. A beautiful chapel, scripture saturated & historic liturgy, a good sermon, animated worship, focus on communion. Boom.
Maybe. Look for part two sometime next week.