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Millennial at Home amidst the Church
 

By Jordan Taylor

The church was the first place I felt at home.

When I think of home, I think of stability. Something fixed. Secure. Safe. Unwavering. It’s something I longed for. It’s also something I could never find growing up.

As a kid of divorce, stability was lost in between custody battles and weekend visits. After all the custody drama, I decided to move in with my grandparents, that way I could stay at my school and not have to move around. I didn’t like change, you see.

I moved back in with my mom in 7th grade. Because of my mom’s health and finances, we never stayed in one place for very long — moving over a dozen times before I graduated high school. Change and movement became all I knew. I still craved stability.

 

The only stability I’ve ever found was through the church doors.

 

I started going to church when I was in 7th grade, the same year I moved in with my mom. I was invited by a new friend, and I — longing for friendships and belonging in my new place — said “yes” to visiting her youth group.

There I found where I belonged. After all this time, I finally found a place for me.

And I haven’t looked back.

That first, friendly visit led to more visits. The visits led to retreats and volunteering and going to events. Then my involvement expanded from youth group to traditional church service, where I felt even more at home.

I fell hard and fast for the rituals and disciplines of traditional worship: the liturgies, the prayers said in unison, the hymns with words straight from scripture, and the church calendar with the days marked by holidays and specific scriptures. 

We all said the same words. We prayed the same prayers. We sang the same songs. It made sense to my order-seeking brain. It made sense to my stability-craving heart.

Every week, I knew what to expect — confident of who I would see and where I should go. The words and hymns changed week-to-week, but the structure was the same: a skeleton of worship— stable, holding everything within the church together. In worship, we act: we say prayers and read scriptures; we sing hymns and take offerings; we lift up concerns and pray for one another. We confess to one another, we welcome one another, and we love one another. In this way, worship never changes; the words we say or the songs we sing may, but the way we do them does not.

The structure rooted in my unstructured life. No matter what my week looked like — if we had to move or something new came up in our lives — worship and the way it was ordained was a safe bet. The routine and predictability anchored me when the rest of my world spun madly about.

I needed routine and structure to order my days, and worship offered me that. I needed the worship that revolves around the words we said and sung: alternating between words of greeting, words of prayer, and words sung in praise. Every week, I would have the same structure, the same course of events to look forward to.[3]  I needed that familiarity and sameness, something stable and fixed. I needed prayers that I couldn’t find the words for in the swirling chaos of my mind. I needed knowledge and methods of learning to engage my brain and my heart. The church gave them to me.

Liturgy made its home in my heart, and the church made its home in my life.

We define liturgy as a form or formulary process to worship. There was something about having a form, a method, a ritual, that made the church feel safe to me. In a life that had been mostly chaos, I knew I could count on something fixed and secure on Sunday mornings.

Every Sunday, we stood and said words written centuries ago, recited and prayed by people for generations and generations. If people with immense faith and wisdom could believe these words and act on them, I could too, no matter how small or insignificant I felt as a new believer. Liturgy empowered me to find my identity in Christ and the words of His Church, not in the unstable mess of my life. 

I continued to find my stability in that building. It wasn’t the building that was important, though — it was the words I came back to every week, and the people who said the words with me. I found comfort in learning the liturgical calendar that mark the seasons of the church — like seasons of the year, they were fixed and predictable, which left me comforted and secure. I went through confirmation and learned church history and theology, and it fit into my life like the missing piece of a puzzle. I learned The Book of Common Prayer like a textbook and memorized the hymns from the big blue book we always used in worship.

When I left for college, I left my faith community, too. I had no liturgy, no lectionary that guided me through scripture, the hymns were different, and the liturgical calendar wasn’t used. I lost my footing for a while. The hymns were different, sung acapella. There was no guiding liturgy or common prayers, just singing and a sermon, maybe a time for prayer requests and introducing ourselves to people. I loved aspects of the new worship and way of the church, but I never felt quite at home with it. I felt unsettled, craving my structure and scripted bulletins with what to say and when to say it. While I appreciated the ways of this different faith community, I missed home —not necessarily my house with my mom and dogs, but the church that led me to God in the first place.

Post-college, I found my way back into the halls of the familiar congregation, re-visiting doctrine and reading liturgy that set my soul on fire. Church, my home away from home, came back into my life, and I never felt safer in its arms. 


 
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