Adventures in Church Attendance: Response to a Concerned Voicemail

Dear ________,

First, I want to thank you for your call a week or so ago. I have not been ignoring it, though the delay & your stated concern in the voicemail would perhaps suggest otherwise. Things have just been more busy than normal, attentions tugged this way & then that. While I confess I could’ve made and/or found the time to respond, either by calling or by writing, life is filled with decisions, most of them, we hope, not as malevolent or even as plainly calculated as they might appear, and I opted for decisions that did not include a quick response to you.

Second, you will no doubt notice that I’m responding via email rather than your chosen mode of communication, the telephone. Please, do not read anything into that either. I’m simply far more comfortable in print than I am in person, with even my closest friends. Would that I could carry on my own internal dialogues & diatribes wholly in print, I might make a better go at consciousness in general.

To your concern: I did not stop attending church because of my participation in Occupy Oakland. Again, appearances here are wont even to deceive me. Occupy surely played a role in the decisions I’ve made, but mostly only in their final acts. There was, that is to say, much leading up to my decision to take a break from involvement in the church, none of them related to Occupy. I’ve spoken to [the good Reverend] at some length about this, and we remain in contact still – just last week, in fact – so I have no problem relaying, at least in part, my reason. In the simplest of terms: I did not have enough faith. Which is to say, I didn’t have any spiritual faith at all. This is not a new development. What was new, however, was that I had (foolishly, perhaps) put myself in various formal & up-front positions of prominence in the church, representing various ideals & formations of faith, speaking on behalf of faith, as it were, never quite believing in the faith so much as I believed in the believers. (Would it be a scandal to say I find a kind of atheistic beauty in religion that the spirituality you cherish cannot attain?) In many respects, I stand by my thinking in this regard, as I approached much of my participation (and, yes, as sad as it may seem, leadership) as an experiment: can one, I wondered, help lead when one believes in the material reality of the church more than what the church says and/or experiences of itself? The jury is still out on that, as I don’t want my psychic & physical burden necessarily to be representative. But, suffice it to say, I was chastened by mu effort, though I remain fascinated by the question. I am considering writing a book on it, in fact.

Anyway, yes, I could’ve & should’ve handled the bowing-out better than I did. I had every intention, for example, of helping [the good Reverend] complete her thesis project, not to mention finishing my term as vice-moderator. I am very embarrassed to say, I followed through on neither.

One constant, however, is my high regard for the work done by the congregation (not least of which you). I’ve been especially encouraged by your brave work with Occupy Oakland, to the point of being placed in jail, & am humbled at you going “all-in” with your participation in this regard.

I’ve gone on at some length now. I will end things for now on this note. Again, thank you for your concern & your call.