For Tuesdays during Lent, I’m going to talk about my faith and spiritual practice (or lack thereof). So this is the time to look away if you’re not interested in this topic. No worries, there will be an allotment post tomorrow and I’ll see you then!
One of the things I really miss about living in Fulham is having a Church community and a church I’m comfortable-ish in. There are lots of churches in Ealing but I miss the connection I used to have at St Thomas’ and the ease of just knowing when I could turn up because I knew the Mass times and I knew the church because I’d spent so much time there.
I don’t have that anymore. Having left my home parish due to the rise of conservative attitudes and clericalism within the church (personally there were lots of reasons but the decision to change the Mass with no consultation because consultation that had happened was overwhelmingly opposed, was my last straw), I don’t feel that any RC church is a place that shares my Christian values so where do I go? CoE churches are a minefield because you never know what you’re going to get, in Ealing they seem to be either happy clappy or Anglo Catholic (and if I wanted to be a member of a faith community that didn’t allow women to be priests, I’d still be a Catholic!). Grace fits for most of it but the timeframes don’t always work and you can’t really just turn up to a service so I have struggled to be an active member for several years. Other Christian denominations, my Grandad was a Salvationist, I can and have gone to Methodist churches but I like Mass…
Last week, I spent some time working out where and how I could get ashed for Ash Wednesday. St Paul’s at 5pm is pretty much next door to the office will there be a problem getting in just for a service? The nearest Church to my house is very evangelical and the only Ash Wednesday service was at 10am, there other church near the office is St Nicholas Cole Abbey and that is coffee shop by day and has no Ash Wednesday service.
This is a perennial problem of the established Church (and I mean churches with building and presence not just the Established Church which is the CoE) and people like me. Church is a community, showing up is important and they should minister to the needs of their parishioners but what if you just need to turn up for one thing, or just hear Mass because you need to find comfort in the structure of it?
It’s a conundrum for churches which should be for everyone and it’s a conundrum for me because I don’t fit any of the recognized boxes that accompany organised church. I’m female, I’m single, childless and middle aged and I have a very clear idea of my faith and my relationship with God, I’m not lonely, or poverty stricken, I don’t have a drug problem and I don’t have a God or community shaped hole in my life. Most of the outreach that church communities engage in don’t work for me because I don’t fit the demographic. That’s not in anyway boasting about my specialness, most churches really struggle with single, childless, women with opinions. Old maids are for cleaning churches, doing what the priest tells you and pining after the v. few single men in the church congregation (it’s part of the reason I stopped going to St Thomas’.)
So what do I do? I could just pick a church and go and work at being a member of the community but I was part of a community and I was quite clearly rejected for being who I am and not being obedient enough. So there is a lot of fear for me in doing that, it perhaps takes a level of vulnerability I can’t brave right now. Grace was part of a solution, but part of the problem for me, was me, sometimes I don’t want a radical re-imagination of worship, sometimes I just want to go to Mass and be comforted by the familiar structure of it and the comfort of communion. I’m aware that living in community is sometimes about learning to live in community and that this isn’t always perfect, but I do need to live in a community where I’m not viewed as lesser because I’m single, as my friend Kathy says “One is a whole number”.
On Ash Wednesday, I left work later than I wanted and I would rather skip church than be late, so I didn’t go at all. Proof that I don’t have any answers but it bears thinking about….