When I first moved away from home, one of the first things I did was attempt to find a new church. I knew I wouldn’t find a church that was exactly like my home church-I had moved from rural Alberta to Montreal, after all-but I wasn’t worried. I had a few recommendations from friends and was eager to get involved in a new community, but it was harder than I expected and, after a month or two of trying out churches, I ended up taking most of a year off from church.
It was easy to do-Sunday mornings seemed especially early in that first year of university and my life was filled with the excitement of a new city, new friends and new freedoms. But the inconvenience of church was not, ultimately, why I gave up trying to find a new church home. I gave up because none of the churches felt like real church-the pews were the wrong shape; the kneelers made the wrong sounds when you shifted on them; the communion rail was the wrong height; the people were the wrong people. Officially, at least, the prayers were the same and the intent was the same and the faith was the same-but it didn’t feel like it. I had to find out if I was a Christian in Montreal (and everywhere else, too) or only a Christian back home. Was my faith rooted in God or was it actually in the people and places I had now left?
Over the course of that year, my faith was nourished in other ways-through my own prayer life, through meeting faithful people of other traditions and in long, late-night conversations about the meaning of life, the universe and everything. By the following fall, I was ready to return to church.
But, with every move, the question resurfaces, albeit less dramatically. The Christian faith is not simply a set of ideas or a personal, mystical experience: it is a material reality. It lives in the context of relationships with other people and with the world around us. God doesn’t change, but a living, breathing faith does.
And so, again and again, we must ask ourselves: “Who am I, as a person of faith and a follower of Jesus, in this new place?” and then wait with open hearts as the answer unfolds and we are given new ways to pray, new questions to explore and new experiences to embrace. Rooted in God, surrounded by the Body of Christ, we are set free to grow.