From the blog

How to NOT Be a Cynic at Church: Part 3

In my last post, I discussed my four requirements for a perfect church. They were:

  • A feeling of antiquity
  • High church trappings
  • Minimal change or commitment from me
  • Perfect doctrinal blend of liberalism and conservatism

When I moved back to Colorado Springs, my quest was to find a church with all of these qualities. I figured that in a city with that many churches, one of them was bound to suit me in every way. For instance, maybe there was…

  • Some pastor with hip glasses and a neck tattoo who started a church in a renovated train station downtown. Amidst the Victorian spindles and chandeliers, our services would employ some ancient, underappreciated Rite you’ve probably never heard of–Celtic maybe. Afterwards we would all ride our bikes to the new coffee place to sip espresso and discuss the trendiest new social causes.

  • An Anglican church in the old money part of town. Because of its strong Eastern influence, it uses the Byzantine Rite complete with the incense and the icons and the domed mosaics.1 When the Divine Liturgy finishes, we all meet at the local bookstore to smoke pipes and discuss abstract theology.
  • That Episcopal Chapel in Manitou Springs. You know, the one with the gothic spires that was tucked between downtown shops on a mountain slope. Maybe they randomly agreed with me on every aspect of theology. Then after each service I could walk through the church’s stained glass and stone with my barefoot artist friends. We could amble down to the creek to recite poetry and smoke hookah, me gently strumming my mandolin.2

Sadly, none of these places exist. Instead of these awesome dream churches, each actual church just smacked me with the dull greyness of reality.

For instance, all evangelical churches were out. At first, there were a couple I was optimistic about. There was this one called….actually, I forget the name. I only went once. It met in a renovated house built around 1900. That’s why I went the one time. But when I saw that it was a typical evangelical church without a single high church accoutrement(!), I knew it was time to leave.

But more fundamentally, I couldn’t go to any evangelical church. I had been a cynic of evangelicals for too long. Retreating back to them would feel like admitting defeat. Worse still, it would mean proving my parents right. And that was totally unacceptable.

There was an Anglican church that I liked, but finally decided against. It was called Anglican Church International or something.3 Everything was good–good preaching, good community. And they were a historic church that was passionate about its faith. This should have been perfect.

But instead of being happy, I searched for little things to criticize. For instance, the service was too broadchurch4 for my liking. Guitars and drums, with lyrics on a screen overhead. There were no bells, no crucifer, and not even a whiff of incense. The building could also use some more pizazz. There was no stained glass, no icons, and no stone facades. Also, the church wasn’t in the coolest section of town. It really would have helped if they were in Manitou, or maybe closer to downtown….

Yes, these reasons are all stupid. But they were more or less my reasons. So I ended my quest without finding a single “perfect church” in Colorado Springs. But there was still hope. I was about to move to Los Angeles for law school. Surely, in a metropolitan area of twenty million people, there was bound to be a church perfectly suited to my every whim…

So you’ve heard MY dumb reasons for rejecting churches. What are some of yours?


1  I once remarked to a friend that my ideal church would have Anglican theology and Eastern Orthodox liturgy. I meant this mainly as a joke. But apparently, “Eastern Rite Anglicanism” is an actual movement. I honestly don’t know what to make of it. If any Orthodox or Anglican readers want to chime in, I’d welcome opinions…

2  Oh, I should probably mention that in this fantasy I’m also a talented musician…

3  Yes, this is the church I now attend and love. Describing my early, silly reasons for rejecting it is a form of foreshadowing. When I return to the church at the end of the series, it will illustrate all the lessons I’ve learned. But you really shouldn’t be asking about this. It’s kind of tacky to ask for spoilers…

4  Ideally, you should say “broadchurch” with a posh British accent.


Photo by Yagmur Adam

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