Today, Amy Francis is featured on the blog as my guest contributor. Wesley and I had the opportunity to meet Amy in Toronto this summer while celebrating the birthday and engagement of a childhood friend. (Shout out to Brendon & Camille Best!) Amy is a recent graduate of Tyndale Seminary in Toronto, Canada and a regular contributor to RELEVANT Magazine. I am excited to hear her thoughts on Canada, Community, Christianity, and the Church. Amy is parked at www.amyhopefrancis.com . Go by and show your love. Now, grab your favorite fall beverages or rainy season drinks and enjoy:
How my relationship with church changed drastically, and stayed the same.
[otw_shortcode_dropcap label=”W” font=”Calligraffitti” background_color_class=”otw-green-background” size=”large” border_color_class=”otw-no-border-color”][/otw_shortcode_dropcap]hen I was young, church was a scheduled reminder of God and the “something more-ness” of human existence. Church was also a social place where I learned how to be genteel, how to treat others decently, and to respect my parents.
When I moved out of the house and into the dorm rooms of York University, I was acutely averse to campus church because of the social anxieties I felt. Yet inside I longed to feel connected to people and a greater cause than just my career.
Good enough, I started searching, and church found me. I met people who inspired and challenged me in my faith, and they invited me to their Sunday gathering.
For 5 years I attended the same church, participated in every small group Bible study, conference, and internship I could, and made lifelong friends. Through it all, my maturation and developing sense of value was recognized. I started hearing people affirm my ability to teach and study. Pretty soon, I was leading Bible studies of my own, developing curriculum, and teaching and speaking at retreats and meetings.
This was not enough, though. My lifelong vision was to develop spiritually into the best version of myself, which I believed (and still believe) God has in store for me. Naturally, I was curious to learn as much as I could about the history, theology and scope of the Christian church. I wanted to learn about the Bible in all its mystery and difficulties. At the recommendation of my pastor, I enrolled in seminary.
Seminary has been a major breakthrough for me, spiritually. It launched me into a new way of thinking that is more complex and compassionate, simpler yet more complicated. It showed me Christianity’s failures and limitations as well as its precious core truths. It has given me the tools and permission to think freely and assume responsibility for what I think. It has humbled me and ignited my curiosity about life all the more.
Yet great growth comes at a price. As I matured, I became dissatisfied with the sermons I was hearing on Sunday. They felt like watching sitcom reruns on TV. My spirituality was shifting to the point that singing worship songs felt incredibly empty and plastic. I started to wonder what was happening to me, and where God was in all of this. I knew that my parents had gone through something similar – in their forties.
My instincts were nudging me that it was time for change. I stopped attending the church that had helped form the foundations of my faith and embarked on a journey to make sense of what church is really about.
Now, I don’t know much about church (despite the degree in theological studies!), but I have a hunch that it’s something much bigger than what the Evangelical movement has made it out to be. What I do comprehend very well is the need for community, and the need for this community to honestly reflect on the teachings and themes of the Bible together.
Plenty of research backs up the fact that people grow spiritually when the Bible and real life are always converging.
When I look at Jesus’ earthly life, I see an excellent Jewish man who broke out of Judaism in order to bring Jews closer to what God intended Judaism to be all along. That is my hope for the church. That it would bring us back to life, to what life is really about. That it would challenge our thinking and question our religious structures. That it would seek only to get ridiculously experienced at loving God and loving one another.