The Exiles

by Lucy

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We stand on the edge, on the outlying paths of Christian society, wandering around in the dusty shadows and lost corners of the church culture. We don’t belong in the church system: in open prayer times, in afternoon tea after the service, in structure and in hierarchy. We don’t understand how to find fulfilment and creativity in stand up, sing, sit down, pray, stand up, sing, sit down, listen. We can play the game for a while, but only for a while.

We don’t look right. We don’t wear the right clothes, wear the right expressions. We don’t say the right things: catch phrases and amens, adulations and praise. We don’t speak out loud to God, we don’t pray with our mouths when we’re already praying in our minds, all the time. We cannot feel welcome when we feel eyes on us. We lurk in the back rows, always happy to talk when approached, but so aware of the eyes – watching us, dissembling us, trying to put us in boxes.

We don’t feel right. We’re all awkward feet and gritted teeth through the open prayer sessions, dreading the request to pray out loud, dreading the request to share our stories. We share when we want to, with those we want to – but not like this, not in distracted and meaningless ‘sharing’, listened to with half an ear and then moved past to the next person. We don’t understand how to find community in rows of chairs, looking over strangers’ shoulders, in listening to a sermon spoken by men who do not know our lives, do not know our hearts.

We don’t belong here. We are part of the family, but we are the black sheep, the ones reluctantly invited to family gatherings, caught hovering half-hidden in the back of the photo, who disappear out the back at the first chance.

We cannot speak comfortably, we cannot show who we are, when we are locked into a system we don’t understand and don’t need. We envy those who can find fulfilment and true growth and spiritual comfort in the Sunday service.

We are our own church. We find our communion in cafes and staff kitchens, coffee and sandwiches, with family and with strangers. We share our stories in bits and pieces, woven through deeper conversations and off-the-wall Facebook statuses. We walk the shadowy paths where we understand those who don’t believe better than we understand those who do. We hold on to the light all the fiercer because we know it’s a sharper fall to darkness. We work in quiet and in laughter.

We look different, we speak differently, we fight differently. In solitude and aloneness we find the people like us, and we hold on. Without social church structure we live in the ebbs and flows, some days good, some days bad. We are no different, but we are. In our hearts we crave the same, the glory and power of the Lord. But we look for it in the places others don’t. We are the social exiles, our faith questioned for our lack of Sunday worship, our lives invalidated without the physical proof of stand up, sing, sit down. We are frustrated by the paradox, brother and sister and yet not. We still love and we still live.

We have no church, and yet we have church. We have the church of the world, and that is where we walk. 

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