Growing up, the pastor of my church wasn’t your typical pastor. He wasn’t the most reassuring or comforting, and he was pretty darn intense. In fact, he sometimes would go out of his way to cause problems with people. A lot of people left our church because of him, but my family stayed because it was the church my grandparents had raised my mom and her siblings in, my parents got married there, and each of my siblings and I had our Christenings, First Communions, and Confirmations there. My grandparents were always active in the church, and it was even the church where my grandpa’s funeral was held. Our church holds a lot of meaning in our family, and the family ties to the church have always been stronger than our desire to leave.
Last year, our pastor (finally) retired. For the past 11 months, our church has tested out all sorts of different pastors. Today, we finally had a church service with our newly appointed pastor. This day has been almost a year in the making.
(I should pause for a moment to say that I’m Lutheran. I should also say that I used to attend church regularly while in high school, but I sort of drifted away from church after I was confirmed, started working, and was sick of our Pastor trying to bully me into doing something or donating money I didn’t have every time I saw him.)
Today’s service was lovely. The pastor spoke softly with a kind, reassuring voice. He made it a point to talk to each and every member of the congregation to try to get to know them and learn more about the member’s of his church. His sermon was upbeat, positive, and didn’t involve yelling. His wife and two young sons sat behind us today, and the sons showed off their lego collection to me. Tons of families who hadn’t been to our church in years returned for the debut of the new pastor. The atmosphere of the church was full of warmth, love, comfort, and people having faith in one another, something I’ve never experienced at church before. It was such a nice experience, and I heard people whisper, more than once, “This is what church is supposed to feel like.”
After 25+ years of an unloving, cold pastor, I’m thrilled that my church is able to have a fresh start. It may be time for me to start going to church again.