By Dhananjaya Premawardena
When I was a small child, my mother went to a lot of different churches. As an enthusiastic Protestant she strove to find a church where she felt God called her to serve, but it was a difficult task. She went to many different churches: Assembly of God, non-denominational, Lutheran, Episcopalian, etc. It was not until last fall when I would learn what leaving a church really meant.
When I was able to drive myself to church, I began to go to a Lutheran church on my own. I spent about three years attending its services, involved with the youth groups, and serving as a small group discussion leader.
I made friends with a lot of the youth ministry team mainly because they helped me as I dealt with my complicated and difficult relationship with my father. The years that I served as an active member there were great, and I am forever blessed by the friendships I made and the people I was with.
It was not until last fall when I would learn what leaving a church really meant.
Everything changed when I went to college.
I had to find a new church to call my home church. Having been used to a church with thousands of members and three Sunday services, I was looking for something similar. Attending my first service at St. Luke was … rather unimpressive.
The music was not as grandiose. The pastors were different. I had to get used to a lot of changes.
For about a year and a half I felt St. Luke’s was an all-right church. It was a substitute for the services I could have had at my old church.
In time, my opinions changed and I began to like attending services. The sermons were great and I loved the music. Best of all, I had a lot of people who loved and supported me and my mother during those years who I am still grateful to even today.
Yet for whatever reason, whenever I went back to my old church, it felt like going back home. All of the people I knew were still there and everyone still remembered me. I loved hearing the sermons, even more than the ones I heard at St. Luke’s (regrettably).
I had to get used to a lot of changes.
In fact, it got to a point that every other week, I would drive one hour each way just so that I could attend worship and say hello to all my old friends there. At the time, this arrangement worked out well and I was comfortable.
Yet, it dawned on me that something was amiss. I felt out of place. Not just at my old church but here at St. Luke. I did not feel that I had a home church because I was constantly moving around. So I finally had to ask myself which church I would attend. I was waiting for a sign to come.
I felt out of place. Not just at my old church but here at St. Luke.
Then I found it. My old church was having a service discussing politics. It was the Sunday before the election and tensions were running high. Having attended conservative churches for many years, I had built up a pretty heavy tolerance and frequent admiration of my conservative peers.
I was expecting the sermon to be fairly political … I was not expecting a political grandstand. The sermon (though those who attended that service would probably disagree) ended up sounding less like a sermon and more like a demonizing political speech.
I was shocked by the vitriol but not because I thought the pastor was wrong. I had been hoping for a sermon that brought people together for Christ; instead the sermon was addressed to a particular group that I was clearly not part of.
Though the sermon was by no means the only thing that pushed me away, I knew my visits to my old church were at an end. All of a sudden it made sense why my mother had moved from one church to another. It was as if God had called me to stop being comfortable and go back to St. Luke.
It was as if God had called me to stop being comfortable and go back to St. Luke. Was St. Luke the same as my old church? No. Will it ever be? No. But does that matter? No. After months of searching, I began to realize that it made no sense to go to a church that was not only far away but did not offer much support for my faith-walk with Christ.
I could no longer be a small group leader. I was not able to have many conversations with my old friends. I had a different support system in Ann Arbor than I had at my old church. I had ‘graduated’ from my old church and I no longer felt called to be there.
Although I still care about my friends there, I knew that everything I needed to have a home church was right at St. Luke all along .
I have been coming to St. Luke for more than two years, and I have come to appreciate giving up being comfortable where I was. For me, comfortable was the stage right before God showed me that I had somewhere else to be and that place was home.
I knew that everything I needed to have a home church was right at St. Luke’s all along .
At St. Luke, there is an abundance of ways that I can get involved and I can mature as a Christian in my faith-walk. Though it was not easy for me to leave my first church, I have found peace and purpose here.
Much like Peter, I needed a sign to explain that maybe my discomfort would lead me to serve Christ in a better way. That is why I chose to stay here.