Logo Credit: Evolving Faith
The jazz saxophone is streaming from my husband's iphone. A yummy meal and brew from Trailhead Restaurant and Bar is in my belly. The suitcases are opened in our AirBnB suite above Roots and Fruits Market, and my bum is snuggled into the orange and brown thread 1970's cabin shag couch, as I sit to write a post that has been a long time coming.
Tomorrow begins the first of a two day spiritual retreat, Evolving Faith 2018, in Montreat NC www.evolvingfaithconference.com/ and my heart has been set on attending it ever since the word of it spilled 6 months ago, in April. As the title tells, Evolving Faith is a conference for pilgrims, wanderers, and wonderers - who at some point along the way became at a minimum, curious about the concept of shalom, good news grace, Jesus Christ. For all thousand plus attendees, there are a thousand unique stories and faith journeys that can be told. The point of this weekend is to begin listening and telling these stories. I know my initial story is the cliche of post-evangelicalism, but the unfolding of my rising is its own.
I was a young, blond-headed, pleaser, wanna-be kid, growing up in the corn land midwest, where Jesus was served for breakfast, lunch, and dinner - so I ate. And at first, for quite a few years, I didn't know any different, and it's taste pleased me. I was told that I was loved, made on purpose, for a purpose, and that all I needed to do was "love God with all my heart" and "confess my sins to Jesus" and I would be rewarded with the gift of God's love and heaven in the afterlife. It was a pretty sweet deal for a girl who didn't know differently. So for years I sat at the same table. I was a regular attender of VBS, youth group, youth group leadership, youth church choir, college ministry, summer youth minister, professional youth minister, and even seminary for graduate work. You name, if it was 80's & 90's christian evangelical, I likely had some exposure to or part in it. These were the years that my body went from a young child to a grown adult woman. These were the years when my education went from kindergarten to graduate degree. These were the years when I went from being a daughter in a nuclear family, to being landed single, alone at 2000's doorsteps.
I could say that it was sitting in my garden floor apartment, alone with the nearest family & friend support hours away, as I watched television coverage of 9/11 attacks that sheared my faith. I could say it was the countless Sunday morning church services I sat in, where the church's unwritten social code wrote me out as a single woman, that punched holes in my faith. I could say that it was chronic absence and marginalization of others who were anything else but white, heterosexual, fully abled, middle class individuals that shredded my faith. However, what pushed me over the edge to losing my religion is when I lost the "privilege" that I so ignorantly gripped all of the previous years, when I became marginalized with my mom and daughter, as life dealt each of them brain injury and brain anomaly. Through all of this, the culture that is church and the dogma that is church, and the bullshit that is "church" has become meaningless to me. Scratch that. It has become the opposite of that. It has become what I seek to dismantle. But the Jesus of church? the shalom of God? This is the water of my soul, that no matter how much others may seek to hijack and manipulate, I cannot and do not let go of.
So with a California driver's license, a cup of latted-expresso and a pen in hand, and wide open ears, that can only be out matched by me even more open heart, I'm headed to the conference center for Evolving Faith. Because I know there there are other wonderers there. Other seekers. Other genuine, honest, pilgrims, who don't have all the answers, but know that Love's table is open for all and we have a love to build that isn't profitable to humankind, but builds wealth for souls. We have a shared hope, that in the midst of all of the mess and the mundane, the Creator God still moves and partner's with us, to bring Shalom to and through the world.
I'm praying and claiming this Shalom even now.
Melinda is a recovering "normal" seeker, who is often distracted by unexpected moments of nature's beauty or questioning children