Church shopping

On Easter Sunday I won’t be sitting with the choir at St. Luke’s Lutheran in Park Ridge, Ill. This thought makes me sad.

This is just the presenting problem, of course. I won’t be at St. Luke’s on any given Sunday. In January, when we closed on the condo and Paul joined me in Wisconsin, we essentially if not officially closed the book on our 23-year membership at St. Luke’s.

I have resisted visiting congregations in the Johnson Creek area. The easy excuse is we are frequent visitors at Redeemer Lutheran in Stevens Point where Annie is the pastor. The truth is, though, I’m not ready to move on.

We didn’t shop for our first congregation. New college grads and newlyweds, Paul and I joined Our Savior’s Lutheran in Oshkosh, Wis., a small congregation two blocks from our new apartment. It was here that Paul, who grew up Roman Catholic, became a Lutheran. Back then, Our Savior’s still had folding chairs and an electric organ. Everybody knew everybody. If you thought about skipping worship on Sunday, you thought again. It was likely that someone would call around 1 p.m., and ask if everything was O.K. “Are you sick? Do you need anything?”

We decided it wasn’t healthy for newlyweds to be quite so involved in church.  So, two years later when we moved back to Madison, we joined Bethel Lutheran, a BIG congregation. That’s where Annie was baptized. If we thought about skipping church on a Sunday morning, we hit the snooze button and went back sleep. No one was going to miss us.

We decided it wasn’t healthy for new parents to be church slackers, so we transferred our membership to Midvale Lutheran, a medium-large size congregation that seemed to be just right for us. This is the community that embraced us during Annie’s surgeries. In Midvale’s parking lot Paul was encouraged to apply for a position in the communication department of the about-to-open churchwide office of the newly formed Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

And so it came to be that we moved to Park Ridge and joined St. Luke’s. It was there that Annie celebrated her first communion, was confirmed, married and ordained. I fell in love with St. Luke’s about 15 years after joining.

Yes, I know. It’s time to get serious about finding a new church home. I need to remember congregations grow on you and grow with you. I shouldn’t expect love at first visit. I can’t expect to find a clone of St. Luke’s–a medium-large size congregation with fabulous music and two traditional services each Sunday–within driving distance of Johnson Creek.

After studying the “Find a Congregation” options at, I discovered that I’m not going to find a nearby congregation that offers traditional-liturgical-organ worship at the “late” service.  What’s the deal with contemporary-jubilee-electric guitar worship having a lock on the 11 a.m. service?

I do know this: on Easter Sunday 2012, I will be sitting next to Paul, Sean and baby Walter at Redeemer Lutheran. What a happy thought.

Sue Edison-Swift, 3/25/2012

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8 Responses to Church shopping

  1. Kathleen West says:

    Such a thoughtful post and truly interesting to someone who has known you over the years. I am happy for your entire family and the new life which you are making. May you have a blessed and richly fulfilled Easter. K

  2. Laurel Hensel says:

    Churches come, churches go. My wish for you, my friend, is that when you consider your next church, be a little selfish. Choose a congregation that feeds you, rather than one that needs you.

    • Deloris says:

      I totally agree, Laurel. We are still trying to find such a place.

    • Wise words, Laurel! And, it occurs to me that I don’t have to limit the search to ELCA congregations, either. My new hair stylist said she belongs to “First Congregationalist, the liberal congregation on the hill.” I perked right up.

  3. BethAnn says:

    I will miss you singing next to me on Easter. But we will be sitting next to each other in the Spirit of the Risen Christ (… you know the next word but I can’t say it because it is Lent!)
    Hugs to all.

  4. Kate Elliott says:

    Oh Sue, I do feel for you. I never did seem to find the right church home after St. Peter’s. I felt like Goldilocks. But I’ve been going with Ron to the Urban Village Church — an emerging church congregation of the Methodist stripe. It’s not really my taste — a U2 Eucharist? Reallllly? — but he was a lapsed Catholic for decades and I want to support him in his seeking. He even borrowed one of my many NRSVs a couple of weeks ago after the preacher exhorted us to read the Gospel of Mark. I had no idea that he didn’t own a Bible! He’d never read the Gospel of Mark! So… I guess I’ll be rockin’ out on Sundays at least for a little while.

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