Couch Churches: Confronting Trauma, Friendship, and Tomorrow

Part Two: Buildings and Bodies

Sitting on a couch, legs tucked under me and sipping on milk and kahlúa, I’m thinking about holy communion. I’m thinking about it so much I move towards interrupting my friend to ask if he has any salted crackers downstairs, and a bit of wine to rinse. But I don’t. Instead, I counter our discussion on doubt with another thought from my philosophy professor. It’s 1:00am and we’re talking about theology like some might discuss the weather, almost aimlessly but with feeling. My thoughts drift to the past two years, and the thing I’ve already accepted as gone, is standing right in front of me without even looking. I AM is here with us; I can taste It on my tongue.

The summer before I headed off to university (I attended community college for a year), I searched for churches near campus, finding one with an attractive website and hipster vibe (yes, I know consumerism is killing the church; yes I know I’m a part of the problem… shoot me.)  They had their sermons posted online and I fell in love from the first word. The pastors spoke exactly into what I needed to hear, and my spirit wept at being fed, genuinely fed, for the first time in years. It seemed too easy to believe that I had found a church on the first go that would quickly become my home. When I finally moved, and attended for the first time, the magic was not lost. I had a regular seat in the back row, was beginning to get involved in serving, and, aside from having to adjust to no parking (#UrbanChurchProblems), saw no signs of trouble on the horizon.

It was a typical Tuesday when I got the church-wide email that the connections director, the one sort-of friend I had, was resigning and moving back home to be with family. Even though it was a civil decision, I had an immediate fight-or-flight response. It’s useless to try making community at church, because, eventually someone leaves. They might choose to, they might be forced to, or they may force you to, but any way, no one lasts. What’s the point?

The following weeks did little to prove me wrong. A few weeks after the connections director stepped down, one of the teaching pastors left, also to move back home. Then, the senior pastor. Then, the worship pastor. The only remaining staff member was the children’s director. It seemed pointless to return to a brand-new community I was only just getting used to.

It’s a silly thing to be troubled by: humans are messy creatures, and the church is nothing but a collection of them. But, I thought a true fresh start, would best be found by a brand-new church plant. As though divinely inspired, one popped up on my newsfeed. All looked well until I realized: they only met once a month, and in the evenings, which rarely work for my schedule. Par for the course, the launch day landed on a day I couldn’t make it. The next month, I also had an unmissable work event. With a month between meetings, there was so much I was missing out on, and so little I could do about it.

When I, at last, found a church, a new plant that met regularly, I was beyond excited. I went to the first Sunday service and fell in love with the pastor’s love of community and authenticity. We met for coffee (and beer) and I thought I had finally found somewhere to belong.

But darkness lingered in the corner of my soul. Our truck was stolen, containing all we needed for Sunday service, and I thought, here we go, the church is shutting down. It didn’t. I fought with a prominent congregant and I thought, here we go, division and exile. But we worked it out. I missed some social events and I thought, here we go, I’ll never find some friends. But I did. So why did I still feel so unmorred?

Something died irrevocably in me that time destruction and exile touched me personally in high school. I believe the Resurrection will breathe healing into me again, when I join the bridegroom in the next Earth. But I do not believe I will taste resurrection in this lifetime.

But, as I’ve said, this is a happy story, authored by a God who provides.

Part three of this limited series has been posted here

Bryce Van Vleet is a psychology undergraduate based in the Pacific Northwest. He is a lover of words, terrible video-game player, and frequent drinker of soda and other sugary drinks. He also writes short stories here and here.

Editor’s notes:

  • This was written 8/31/18. Any reference to time may be distorted due to a delay in posting.
  • Some names and places have been changed. See our disclaimer for more information. All identifying information has been stripped to protect the identities of minors and innocent (or not so innocent) parties.
  • Edits have been made for gendered use of God (Why edit the gendered use of God?)

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