Pastor Peter at KS has been very kind to me, showing caring concern for me as I've tried to find a place in VCAC. He recommended that Auntie "A" and I sit down and have a chat, so today we had a long lunch at a nice seafood place in Richmond. Auntie A is a pillar of the church at KS and has been here for quite a while. She's a little younger than my mom, came to the U.S. about the same time; I'm about the same age as her sons.
Ours was a pleasant conversation: Auntie A was very sweet and reminisced of simpler times when she was a foreign student, when the church fellowship was just about their only family on this side of the world. She noted, and I agree, that our generation often doesn't have these kinds of long-lasting close relationships -- childhood friends that you've known for twenty years or more, whose parents were friends with your parents. There are still a number of those families around at KS, the "olde guard", who remember when the church was smaller and less bureaucratic, when people cared and wanted to serve for the joy of it rather than out of obligation, when the choir was strong and everyone sang like they really meant it.
I remember that kind of a church, and I grew up with a church family like that -- but it was a different family, in a different city. Coming here, to this city, to this church, where no one knows me or my family -- I have no roots here, but VCAC is a church with roots, and close-knit ones, at that. Thinking over this now, I begin to wonder if maybe it would have been easier had I moved back to my hometown, to the place of my roots. But I know that Seattle has changed much in the last ten years, and many of my childhood friends have moved on: other cities, other churches, other lives. And, in all likelihood, I've moved on, too.
Vancouver is teeming with rootless young adults, and more flow in each year. There are rootless, hip, young churches/ministries that cater to this crowd, and I know I would fit in easily with them. And in a way, those foreign-student fellowships of yesteryear in which lifelong friendships were forged -- those were rootless, too: they established roots by choosing to spend critical years of their lives together. But I don't think that I would voluntarily move to such a church; I think we gain so much more by reconciling in Christ and learning from each other -- older generations and younger, English congregations and Chinese congregations.
Going into this lunch, I had planned to talk primarily about the church, to hear from Auntie A about its history, what events and issues that have shaped its character. But somehow or other, we ended up talking more about dating and marriage -- and "settling down". She counseled me not to worry so much about the big issues of church politics -- I can't fix the church, so why worry about things I can't do anything about? Her advice was to start small and just enjoy the fellowship and community at church.
And, she added, if I want to get married, I need to stay in one place and spend the time to get to know people and be known. The single women at KS, Auntie A observed, are mostly neither flashy nor highly educated, but they are quite gentle and peaceable, and very sweet once you get to know them. I concur! But what remains to be seen is whether I'd be a good match with such a person, or whether I need to change my character/personality, or whether I need to look elsewhere, or none of the above, or all of the above. I really don't know; I seek God's guidance.
It is hard, though, for me to sit still week after week just attending (1) worship service, (2) Sunday School, (3) prayer meeting, and (4) small group, like I once was told to do. Merely to sit through a fluffy sermon, a sleepy, uni-directional Sunday School, a sparse prayer meeting, and a small group disconnected from the church -- I'm not content! I've seen Christendom outside VCAC, I've seen vibrant churches that are really alive in the Spirit -- indeed, it sounds like VCAC used to have that life in its first generation. We have so much potential, so much raw material: I see what we couldbe, under God's hand. And I care about our people: I care about the faithful few who are so burnt out, frustrated, cynical, and under-appreciated. I care about the disconnected many who are so talented, thirsty, ill-equipped, and also under-appreciated. I want them all to experience release and joy and trust -- letting go into God's mighty hands -- being built up by encouragement, not guilt.
There's a fire in my soul, and what I see as more important than merely filling the Sunday School teachers' roster is the atmosphere and character of our church -- our heart-attitude toward ministry, toward people, indeed, toward God. As the old hymn celebrates: there is joy in serving Jesus! Do we show it? Do we share it?