What Is Your “Church”?

 

“Every time I go there I cry. It’s my church.”

So said my friend Amber as we munched hipster fusion tacos amidst exposed brick and wooden beams in Silverlake.
She was talking about the Griffith Observatory and their Centered On The Universe film.
I was wondering what that even means and picking the chicken out of my $7 taco.For most of my adult life, I’ve given religion and spirituality less thought than I’ve given my bangs.
Or what I’m eating for breakfast. Or how my ass looks in those jeans.
Which is to say – very, very little thought.

When I visit my parents, I’ll occasionally attend the church I grew up in because I want to say hello to all those sweet little old ladies. I went to a Universal Unitarian church once. I love partaking in my guy’s (totally atheist) Jewish holidays.

When people start talking about crystals and chakras and “communing with blahblahblah whatever” I mentally assemble my shopping list and consider my cuticles with undue scrutiny.

But Amber’s comment got me thinking. What does church mean? What would church feel like to me, the most Agnostic and deeply unspiritual of humans?

Coincidentally (or by divine intervention?) just a few days after our conversation, Amber and I attended a workout class with one Mr. Richard Simmons.

We danced. We sang and shouted in unison with people we’d just met, making eye contact and grinning while we high kicked. I moved my body in a way that brought me that down-to-the-bone, childlike joy. I felt connected and happy and part of something bigger that myself – even if that something was just a studio full of happy, sweaty strangers.

As completely ridiculous as it sounds, I finally understood my friend and her version of spirituality by sweating to the oldies.

And little by little, I started taking note of those tiny moments when I would well up with happy tears or chest-swelling connection.  Those moments have become my personal version of church.

For me, church takes place any time
I’m making music with people I love,
I’m alone with the sun and a huge, open sky,
I get completely lost in what I’m doing and I feel connected to the task at hand – dancing, writing, cooking, scrubbing the grout with a toothbrush.

Your church is any space that fills + thrills you. It’s any gathering of people that brings you tangible joy. 

 

Do you subscribe to an organized religion? Do you think of yourself as spiritual? When do you feel most connected? What is your church? 

photo by Robert Couse-Baker // cc

16 Comments

Heidi

This is so spot on. I'm not religious either, and have struggled recently with the fact that many of our friends and family around us have community by default because they go to church. I'd love to have that same community, but without the religious aspect, so I've realized that I have to build that on my own or find that within other aspects of my life. Thanks for writing about this!

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M

Hey Heidi (and everyone else!) if you're looking for the community feeling of church, but without the religious aspect, see if there's a Sunday Assembly near you! http://sundayassembly.com/assemblies/

(I'm a bit biased, I help organize Sunday Assembly Boston, but I think it's super fun! Group singing, interesting stories, getting together. All the good stuff.)

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Zachary Bos

Hi. Church-going atheist here (Sunday Assembly). Just popping in to tell the author — Sarah, you? — this is great. Great. I'm definitely sharing it.

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Naiomi

I'm part of a community dance troupe called the Real hot Bitches. We basically get dressed up 80's lycra and ake up dance routines, which we perform for each other or for our adoring fans. It's a real community – we support each other through anything even though we're spread out now and used to mee ocne a week for Club Bitchin, which was pretty amazing. Oh and we have male bitches too – we're an equal opportunities dance troupe!

The Bitches are totally my church, and only when dancing do I feel that free…

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Amber

Beautiful. Such a vivid memory.

Sarah, did I tell you I met Pope of non-spiritual people, Sir Richard Dawkins at that exact same Silverlake taco joint, ironically named Diablo?

He was very sweet and was wearing a tie hand painted with two tiny penguins.

I love this post, thrilled to have helped inspire it. <3

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Kate

When I was in high school, I had to read Emerson's "Nature" and that was really influential to me. (And I know how pretentious that sounds.) I'm not an outdoorsy person and you'll never find me willingly going backpacking (I have allergies, I do not like bugs, and I am a difficult sleeper who needs a bed) but when I take the time to hike through the local arboretum, sit on the shores of Lake Michigan, or lay in a park and watch the clouds, I absolutely feel a connection to myself and to something that's bigger than me.

Oh and also, a good dance party at a wedding. 😀 That's my favorite thing in the entire world–so much so that I'm tempted to crash wedding just so I can dance a lot.

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Anonymous

My church is…church! As a Catholic, I love that even when I'm traveling or far away, I can go to Mass and know I'm right at home 🙂

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Lauren

When I was growing up, I remember my dad saying that the mountains were our church. I've held that with me. As a child, weekends were always spent in the mountains. They were the place where we relaxed, where we embraced struggles and faced fears (in my case, of heights). I now live a plane ride away from mountains, but I think that awe of mother nature is ingrained in me. And anytime I'm home, the mountains are a must-visit. I feel my heart open up when I make it to the Rockies. I'm not religious, but they're sacred to me.

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angieeatspeace

I have been thinking about this SO much lately and definitely feel myself gravitating back towards a spiritual practice, but not looking to go back to religion.
I find God, spirituality and gratitude most in nature. While hiking and being in the beauty of creation, I find inspiration, creativity, stillness and peace.
My yoga practice has also helped me cultivate spirituality and I often feel that my yoga mat is church.

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Phyllis

i LOVE that quote… 'tangible joy' …it is really hard to come by but when you experience it it truly is invigorating & uplifting.
for me? yoga, travel & nature, a good dance concert 🙂

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Vanessa

I'm a Catholic, and I definitely consider the Catholic church in town to be "my church". I've attended that church since I was a child, I know everyone who goes there and I feel a distinct sense of belonging and spirituality when I go there.

That being said, I also consider pop culture and sci-fi conventions to be my church. I'm a self-confessed geek and I adore dressing up in a cosplay costume, trekking into the city to meet with thousands of other like-minded people, strike up a conversation with a stranger about our feelings on the ending of Harry Potter and walking away with a giant smile on my face. For me, a going to a convention feels like going home. 🙂

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