I recently left the church I grew up in. My reasons are numerous, personal, not at all spiteful and something I will gladly share with anyone in the flesh. For those who might be concerned, I’m slowly making a church home elsewhere. But for the sake of the story, it’s important you know leaving was difficult for me to do. I also admit that while I speak about the Church* with great affection, others have not had the same experience and for that, I am deeply sorry.
The process of departing was difficult. After twenty-something years in one community, I had deep roots. I thought it was the familiarity I was going to miss. I knew every face (but honestly and regretfully, not every name). I had my own seat in the back left of the church. I could take communion in my slippers, sing the wrong words at the wrong time, arrive atrociously late – and my church family would love me enough to graciously allow it. My new community and I are ‘taking things slow’ if you will. Maybe someday we’ll get there, but for now we are in a strict church-appropriate-footwear-only phase.
On my last Sunday with them, in the same place I’d sat and listened to numerous children’s addresses, my church family laid their hands on my shoulders, prayed for me and ‘sent me out’ to a new community. It was humbling and heart-aching as we said ‘Amen’ and I turned to face many of the people who raised me in the faith. Spiritual parents. Friends of my parents, parents of my friends, youth leaders, Sunday school teachers, people I would housesit for. I was completely undone with gratitude for the many ways that these people had invested in me, challenged me, graciously forgiven me and modelled a generous breed of love.
Last weekend I caught up with two women who were instrumental mentors in my teenage years. Now, we catch up as friends. And although we gather outside of youth ministry program, without lime cordial and party pies – their influence is ever-welcome as I navigate the world of ‘adulting’.
I know, without doubt, that I would not be the person I am today without the voices of those older, wiser, and kinder than me. I recognise I have been spoiled with opportunities to learn from people of faith who have called me to a higher standard, spoken words of truth and life over me and provided spaces for me to grow and lead.
I heard once that the secret to leadership is to acknowledge your ceiling as someone else’s floor. So, to the spiritual parents of the world, thank you. Thank you for your humility to entrust everything you know in another, in the hopes that they might be better, wiser, kinder. And then be outdone – in the most beautiful, rewarding way – by the generations that follow.
Pray for the spiritual parents in your lives.
*meaning the institutional Church in general