-Bonnie Friedman, from Shambala Sun
Life is all a sublet anyway, of course. We don’t fully own even the bodies we live in; we can’t stop them from changing. We cede them from year to year. And this knowledge of loss, I’ve discovered, is the salt that brings up the savor of all the rest—understanding that none of it is mine to keep. It’s loss that provides the edge that makes the world sharply beautiful. Without it, life would pall; it would be far less intense. The pang is the small price we pay.
-Bonnie Friedman, from Shambala Sun
And just like that, another year has dissolved on the horizon. In the whirlwind of 365 days, my life has shifted and changed in ways I couldn't have possibly predicted. Here I am, a new woman. I've adventured from rustic backyard wine cellars that left me feeling like a quiet and slowly paced life might actually be possible, to the hurried yet inspiring bubble of Palo Alto (for all it's flaws, Palo Alto suits me best). I left behind a job that shredded my compassion and my faith, and have found that despite working someplace since where I see daily miracles, I'm still lost. But that's okay.
I've barely processed all that's happened to me in 2014, but I do know it's been a launching pad for what I plan to do with my life. Greater things are yet to come.
My amazing sister doing yoga in Costa Rica. Follow her on Insta - @sunmermaid
The problem I have increasingly found with the church is its inability to move beyond what worked for the last generation into what it can be for the next. Many churches make the mistake of trying to sell a product, rather than focusing on bringing people into relationships not just with Jesus, but with each other. And more importantly, it's about making an old story relevant to our lives today. The themes are more than applicable - injustice, love, friendship, pain, forgiveness - but the delivery is often intimidating or condescending, full of rules and regulations. It's a fine line between holy ritual and stuffy tradition.
If I'm completely honest, my once thriving and deep love of religion is now fading into something more accurately described as vague spirituality. My connection with God has undoubtedly faltered over the past year - I feel my faith most profoundly when I'm doing yoga, and am most frustrated with it when I'm at church. I feel my sense of spirituality slinking away from me, and I'm simply too exhausted to do anything about it. But most importantly, I'm absolutely okay with all of this. I'm not worried one bit.
Perhaps the challenge for the church is to somehow embrace this laissez-faire attitude of myself and other young adults, rather than pushing a somewhat irrelevant lifestyle on a generation consisting of dreamers and adventurers - a generation raised to think outside the box. We're most likely not going to find ourselves in the church given the way it's marketed to us now, and I don't see this as a detriment to the lives of religiously reluctant millennials or to the current church goers who voice such concern about us. Spirituality is intensely personal, and there's no cookie cutter way to experience faith.
Last year, the senior pastor of my former church addressed this issue in one of his weekly e-newsletters:
In response to last week's reflections on the Millennial generation's absence from church life, I received this excellent and very respectful question from an active member:
"As you discuss the dilemma in church participation, I would dearly love to understand how you couldn't imbue the importance of church membership to your own children? My question is beyond a confrontational challenge. If the senior pastor of a large church cannot bring his children to church, then what chance do lay people such as myself have?"
This is a concern raised by many parents who have found church life to be an essential and joyous part of their walk in life and yet have watched their children, often raised in the church, deem the church irrelevant once they have left home.
I would never want "church membership" to be seen as an end in itself. The goal of our faith isn't to fill pews, committees, or potluck dinners. God knows that these days there are too many glaring examples of public hypocrisy by self-professed church leaders to suggest that going to church alone makes one a Christian.
The goal of our faith is to create disciples of Jesus, those who live by and aspire for the teachings of Christ and know his grace in their hearts. Just by simple observation of our own young adult ministry, it would appear that Millennials are far more interested in small groups and service projects than showing up to worship services on a Sunday morning. In many ways, what church will be for them will be much different than what church has been for me.
To our active members concerned about keeping their children in church, as one who didn't, there are social and cultural factors at work today over which we have little control as parents. That's not offered as an excuse. Just don't let the idea of your kids not attending church detract from fulfilling the vow we make at each baptism of an infant: to live in such a way that these young ones will learn what it means to lead a Christian life by our example.
Whether our children attend church or not, if they see Christ in our lives, they will find their way to spiritual community in their own time and place."