While my feet trudged through the thousands of frail wafers of yellow and white dropped by the aspen trees surrounding my home, a fellow seeker of God walked beside and behind me, filling the quiet with news and info about the current state of things for the people who come to sit in the chairs together each Sunday.
Our conversation was supposed to take place inside of a big room under florescent lights, with multiple folders and papers; but we decided to ditch the rug and metal and head up the side of the mountain across from the church. The conversation was, at first, business. As planned, we went over the news we’d received from the bishop, who’d provided guidelines for each congregation, each year, regarding our growth and calculating all of those nice statistical digits congregants and clergy hope will fill their eyes each week, but prefer not to see on paper.
The two of us quickly tossed between each other the numbers and projections; but as our legs moved over the dirt, lifting us higher through the trees, our conversation changed.
The cold crunch of the fall air had finally reached down to the bottoms of our lungs, deepening our talk with the color of the leaves under our shoes; and our minds pushed past the conference room jargon to consider where we’re supposed to go, as people who hope and yearn to find a closeness with this beautiful force of Life we call God.
We talked about a lot of things. The history of the church, the old ways of missionaries, and all of the ways people, over the years, had come to resent the church for its role amongst people; and how this history — which stands as flawed as each one of us— had worked, over time, to actually isolate people from their natural movement toward God.
What a horrible and wonderful thing to let ourselves consider.
Acknowledging this truth is horrible, because it leaves us with a sense of fear and anxiety toward what has already been done; but it is simultaneously beautiful and wonderful for us to let this truth enter, because it allows us more clearly, and with more bravery, and strength, to walk ahead from where we are.
People still search. People still yearn to be closer with the Higher Force of Life we’ve all felt invisibly present inside and around us since the beginning of our human experience on the dirt. Sit down at any table with any group of intoxicated college kids (funny, I just turned thirty, and now find it natural to call these adults, “kids.” Oof.), and you’ll find this deep yearning and searching in each of the words expelled from their souls, as long as you don’t ruin the conversation early, by safely and simply regurgitating dogmas and creeds.
People want God. People search for the God they sense in the deepest parts of who they are; but they haven’t yet found a place to go, where they feel they will find what they seek.
The church is not the church if it is not this place.
While I walked with this other seeker through the trees on the mountain, I couldn’t help but feel a connection with those yellow-white wafers dropped from the aspens to the ground, blowing without attachment to the source of their natural life.
In that cold fall air, I also couldn’t help but remember that life moves in cycles, each beautiful, and necessary, and unique as they are; and that though this seeker and I moved through leaves which right now lied scattered and dry all around us, a time is coming soon, when our eyes will again fill with the green connected strong to each branch of the tree which grows and spreads life through each extended wafer.
As a church, as a branch reaching out from the life of God, we are vital.
And all of us seeking the sight of growth and change, will find it, as long as we’re willing to take a step outside of the conference room, and surround ourselves with the life outside of our open doors.