Welcome to Tennessee, land of a thousand churches. It seems to me that one thing Knoxville is not lacking is churches and banks. The number and variety of both would astound you. I know people have told me, "Ingrid, you have moved to the Bible Belt after all." I have felt this religious presence in odd ways. One of the first questions many people ask you is, "So, have you found a new church home?" They automatically assume you attended church regularly AND that your top priority is getting a new one. The other was in the town 4th of July parade. There were so many floats from the churches it was startling to me. Celebrate our Declaration of Independence! and of course our Lord and Creator!
We have been in Tennessee for more than a month now. Why have we or even me not explored our religious options? I ponder this question often. I discuss it with my husband, and I make excuses, we are unpacking, we are traveling, we are doing things as a family, but why are we NOT seeking to visit churches.
One reason is, my options are limited. Despite the huge number of churches with LARGE congregations,(which are really tempting because you can go and not fear being on this committee or that deacon) my sense is their interpretation of the bible and mine would not match. I hesitate also because visiting churches is hard for me and my children. I don't want the girls attached to a place my husband I decide is not the right fit.
At this time we have narrowed it down to 2 starter choices. We are lucky to have a United Church of Christ congregation close to us. They have the same open and affirming feel as our previous home. They are even the same size. They even use folding chairs and have a pastor who has been there for 17 years. Uh oh, that makes me tremble a little. You see our church as been going though challenges for some time now, starting when our minister of 17 years left. I am not sure I can handle the disruption of that again. My other concern is the sameness of this church to our past one.
I will tell you a story, I went to the local YMCA's here. I wanted to connect with that familiar feeling of comfort and support I had in Delaware. Guess what? I left them and called my old boss(and friend)from the Y crying. The YMCA's here did not offer comfort, they showed in brightness how things are different here and my transition will still take time and effort. I wanted sameness, and what I got was a big dose of different. What if I go to this UCC church and experience the same unhappiness? Will I leave each week upset because I am reminded of not seeing my friends?, my village?, my peers?
Our second option is the Unitarian Universalists. The UU's as jargon calls them. My dad who is a minister used to joke United Church of Christ (UCC) stands for Unitarians considering Christ. My sister has said, the UU's and UCC have a fence between them. It is a chain link fence which allows ideas to go through but the UU's have the final barrier of not making that full commitment to just believing in Jesus and nothing else.
Even so, this option has appeal because they are 5 minutes away. They are very open (last week the sermon was one accepting atheists) AND they marched in the Knoxville Gay Pride parade. I am not even sure the UCC did that. The girls religious education would involve the "Judeo - Christian" beliefs along with other religious studies.
What is my problem with it? While I enjoyed their website, it somehow lacked for me. While I love to learn about other religion and cultures. I cannot escape the fact that I am UCC. I took the leap to believe Jesus is the son of God. Will I be ok with that being one piece of my experience? Do I want that for my family?
All of it troubles me and muddles about in my mind. We have not been to church in what seems like forever to me. My husband pointed out that due to his schooling and being here on his own he has not been to church in months and years! I told him I fear we will never go back to church. He tells me, if I am thinking about it this much, there is now way we will not.