Church Shopping: Not All It’s Cracked Up to Be

I don’t have a lot of experience when it comes to churches.

I’ve only been in a relationship with two.

I spent the first 33 years of my life attending Neenah’s First United Methodist Church.

My earliest memories include receiving a red ‘leather’, gilt-edged Bible when I was in 3rd grade.

It was beautiful.

Or at least it was until I got bored, and scratched designs on the ‘gold’ edges with my fingernail.

I didn’t understand much of what I read. The King James Version was not easy reading for an eight year old. (Not easy for this 51 year old either, btw.)

I remember Mrs. Einerson and Mrs. Beiser sharing stories about Noah’s Ark, and Jonah and the Whale, and Joseph and his fancy coat. We sang Zacchaeus Was a Wee Little Man, and Oh Be Careful Little Eyes.

I remember spending Wednesday nights in the church basement completing Confirmation packets when I was in junior high.

I also remember sneaking into the balcony of the church instead of doing those said packets.


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I remember monthly Communion. A loaf of bread was passed down each pew and you’d hold onto the loaf with one hand and tear off a chunk with the other. (This was before the days of germs apparently.) I’d shape mine into a little cube before popping it into my mouth.

We also drank grape juice out of little plastic cups. (No wine for the Methodists.) There were little cup holders on the back of the pews to hold the cups. I remember the day when I realized what those little cup holders were for. Amazing.

What I don’t remember was seeing my husband.

But, apparently he saw me, as he asked his much younger sister who ‘that girl sitting next to the pillar’ was.

Her reply?

You can’t date her. She’s only a year older than me.


Obviously he didn’t take her advice.

And for that I am forever grateful.

I remember getting married.

I’d say I remembered the baptism of Hovie baby #1 in January of 1993, but I don’t. Having kids will do that to you.


As to not play favorites, I don’t remember Hovie baby #2 being baptized in 1994 either.


And I’m sure it doesn’t come as surprise that I don’t remember Hovie baby #3’s baptism in the spring of 1995.


I do remember reading from the HUGE Bible from the lectern for a few church services. And I definitely remember trying to control all three kids on the Sundays Reed ushered.

And I most certainly remember the woman making several attempts to turn the page of the Bible when she was doing a reading. After several delicate licks to the fingers, she finally licked her whole hand and slapped it on the page.


I also remember racing off to Papa’s Cafe for breakfast with some friends from church while the kids were in Sunday School.

And it was about this time we began to struggle with the whole church thing. Clearly, if our one hour race to eat breakfast was the highlight of our Sunday morning, we had a problem.

Fortunately, we had been indirectly introduced to a church through the preschool our kids attended.

Keep in mind leaving the church we were both raised in was kind of a big deal. As a matter of fact it was so kind of a big deal that for many weeks we attended both churches.

Eventually, we made the break; I wrote a letter to our minister explaining our decision to leave.

Not an easy letter to write.

Leaving wasn’t easy either, but we had company. Our Sunday morning breakfast friends also left.

So we knew people at the new church.

And we also knew the Pastor and his wife (who just so happened to be our kids’ preschool teacher).

And the sanctuary was familiar, as it was the site of many Hovie kid preschool celebrations.

So the transition wasn’t overly traumatic.

We spent the next 18 years at New Hope Lutheran Church.

And while it was the children’s programming that led us to the church, it was the music that brought us back.

That very first Sunday, we sang Better is One Day.

Blew our minds.

Sang it for the rest of the day.

Coming from a traditional church with a pipe organ and a white robed choir, this also, was kind of a big deal. I mean we were talking guitars, a keyboard and bongos.

Now there were things I missed from our old church.

I missed singing the Doxology as the offering was brought forward. I missed lighting the candles on the Advent wreath each December. I missed our longevity within the church. And I missed the memories.

Nonetheless, we settled quite nicely into life at New Hope.


Reed joined the music ministry working the sound system.


While I volunteered in the children’s ministry. And prepared Communion.


We enjoyed taking part in small groups.

So while the children’s programming lead us to the church, and the music brought us back, it was the relationships that kept us there.

But now we are 1,000 miles away. Looking for a new church.

Lots of churches down here. Everything is new. We have no connections.

We do, however, know what we’re looking for.

  • Music: Even though I often think of the song, The Heart of Worship, and feel guilty about the value I place on the music within the worship celebration, it’s the music that touches me. I can’t tell you how many times a song has brought out intense emotions.  And the music stays with me throughout the week, reminding me of things I need to be reminded of.
  • Message: I need the Bible to connect to my life. I want it to be real. And I want to learn. I want to be inspired. I want to be pushed. I want to strengthen my faith.
  • Connections: I want to be a part of something bigger than myself. I want to connect with other believers.

We have found a church that fits the bill for the first two bullet points.

But there are things I miss. I miss saying The Lord’s Prayer, I miss saying The Apostle’s Creed, I miss weekly Communion.

And I miss the people.

Which of course, brings me to that third bullet point.

And I know what God’s doing. He wants me to be uncomfortable.

Because He wants me to take ACTION.

ACTION is what is going to make me feel connected.

Smart guy, that God.



4 thoughts on “Church Shopping: Not All It’s Cracked Up to Be

  1. Karen,

    I so admire your dedication and persistence and clarity. Connecting with other people seems difficult, especially as you get older. But you found a church that fits the first two criteria. Do they have any programs outside of services that are of interest to you? I’d be curious to know if something like that is a way in.

    I do look forward to your posts. And I have to say too that there is a whole lot of fabric and hair in that wedding picture! Makes me want to share my senior high school photo. Similar thing going on with the hair and dress!

    Take care and have a good Friday,

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Libby! Yes…this church has so much to offer. Plenty of opportunities to connect and to serve. I just need to put on my big girl pants and jump in.

      And the hair! Yep. Definitely a child of the 80’s. Farrah flips and Jessica McClintock dresses! I’d love to see that HS picture!

      Have a wonderful week, Libby! I’m diving into the advice you offered earlier as to opportunities to get involved in the community. It’s time for the next steps!


  2. I wonder if there can be a small church group where you can say the Lord’s Prayer and the Apostle’s Creed together. Or see how it develops… I guess that’s part of the action and community thing.
    I made a note to myself to follow up with you on your word, and I’m happy to see that you are continuing with it. I am not doing so well with my word, diligence, but I have renewed my efforts to make part of my lifestyle now. I’m glad you found a church you can be happy with! And know, nothing is set in stone. If it’s not quite meeting your needs, you can continue looking.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Nothing is set in stone. That resonates with me so much. I tend to like life nice and neat and tidy. Make a decision and go with it. But you are so right, there is nothing to say I can’t try something different if it doesn’t work out. And thank you for noticing! Yep…ACTION. Not always easy for me and trying hard to remember an action doesn’t need to be anything grand. Keep in touch, Dorothea! Anxious to hear how DILIGENCE is playing itself out in your life.

      Liked by 1 person

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