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In which I defend the cafeteria

I was in high school when I first heard the term cafeteria Christian. The American preacher was telling us about it at church camp, he was a passionate apologist, and I remember a lot of “them” and “those people,” a lot of derision about the idea, shaming. Because cafeteria Christians, especially those cold and liberal mainliners, just pick and choose whatever they like from the Christian faith, more concerned with political correctness than the Real True Doctrines.

Cafeteria Christians, well, those people don’t take what they’re given, the whole nutritious balanced plate, no, they make a meal at the ice cream sundae station, chase it with Lucky Charms, they skip veggies.

In my tired years, I was a mega-church refugee, a burned out ministry wife, a doubter, a questioner, a people-pleaser, a tired performer, a new seeker all over again, and I found my way to the Anglican Church. And they helped save me a time or two, because I was not taking communion, I was receiving the Eucharist, just another twenty-something evangelical kid on the Canterbury Trail.

One day, I was on a lunch break from my credit union gig in downtown Vancouver. I walked up Burrard, hugely pregnant with my second child, hurrying through the crowds of business suits, sidestepping buskers, pressed by the constant hum of conversation, of busy and capable people, the feeling of go-go-go-go on the young city’s sidewalks. I cut from the crowd at the corner of Georgia to climb the stone steps of the old church.

From the voices and the bustle, the modernity and money of our glass towers and dime-a-dozen sushi joints, to the narthex of an old cathedral. This silence and holiness, this quiet, was existing right at the same spot, but for the seeking. The weight of holiness and prayer, the smell of candles, old wooden pews, lanterns, musty papers. The dull light coming through hundred-year-old stained glass windows illuminated only dust swirling in the air. The church was completely empty, yet the doors were open, and even that small grace felt like a whole new thing to me.

Read the rest of this over at Prodigal Magazine…

 

church, emerging church, faith, journey, Prodigal

6 Responses to In which I defend the cafeteria

  1. Alyssa Bacon-Liu September 10, 2012 at 1:53 pm #

    Read the whole thing over at Prodigal. I marvel at the ways your words inspire me & others. Thank you for sharing this, it was so wonderful.

  2. Handsfull September 10, 2012 at 4:18 pm #

    We’re in an ‘in-between’ place in our church-lives right now. I was brought up in a fundamentalist cult, then spent over 10yrs in a happy-clappy pentecostal church, and now having spent 5yrs in a very traditional Anglican church in a very small, rural town.
    At the moment we’re sharing ourselves between the Anglican church we’ve been going to, the Catholic monastery down the road and the Presbyterian pentecostal-ish church 15mins down the road in the other direction!
    I guess what I’ve learnt from all this is that wherever people are searching for God, there He is. Whatever the denomination. The form that the church service takes can be very different, but the presence of God feels the same.
    I do have to say, that I’m always suprised when I hear people saying good things about Anglican churches, and about the life they’ve found there – my experience has been very different! I guess my view of the Anglican denomination is of a very old, almost completely dead dinosaur… so it’s good to hear that it’s not all like that.

  3. Michael K. Thompson September 10, 2012 at 7:21 pm #

    Good article. The preacher starts from the assumption that choice will always yield to the bad. My mentor told me that choice was created for a good purpose, to discern between many good options. Could it be that we are created for choice and that we should be responsible enough to choose the good (which on occasion includes ice cream)? :-)

  4. Diana Trautwein September 10, 2012 at 8:51 pm #

    I tried to leave this comment over at Prodigal – and got rejected three times – so here it is:
    LOVE this, Sarah. Thank you for acknowledging that there are actually some truly lovely things about denominations/different worship styles/mixing it up a bit. We are all wired differently AND at different stages of our lives, the wiring morphs a bit. I’m grateful for lots of different experiences of Jesus in my story – from what I learn in different places, for what I bring to different places. It’s a lovely mish-mash, isn’t it? It’s good to celebrate that – so thank you for this. (always and forever, amen. :>)

  5. Diana Trautwein September 10, 2012 at 8:51 pm #

    I tried to leave this comment over at Prodigal – and got rejected three times – so here it is: LOVE this, Sarah. Thank you for acknowledging that there are actually some truly lovely things about denominations/different worship styles/mixing it up a bit. We are all wired differently AND at different stages of our lives, the wiring morphs a bit. I’m grateful for lots of different experiences of Jesus in my story – from what I learn in different places, for what I bring to different places. It’s a lovely mish-mash, isn’t it? It’s good to celebrate that – so thank you for this. (always and forever, amen. :>)

  6. Rachel Heath September 12, 2012 at 10:23 am #

    A truly lovely post, Sarah. I grew up in a wonderful little church that’s turned into a wonderful slightly-larger church over the years. I still recognize most of our congregation, because I’ve been there forever and ever, but it’s big enough that I don’t know everyone’s name anymore, and community is something that has never come easy to us. We have our little groups, and new people can visit for weeks without someone even saying “Hi.” Personally, community is scary for me, and it’s something the Lord is pushing me in, something I have to be really intentional about. Maybe it’s intentional for everyone, but it always seems like community is natural for you- there’s so much wisdom and experience in your writing, so much room for everyone, and I love that about you. Every time I read a post like this, I glimpse the beauty of the church and feel inspired to pull myself more intimately into her midst.

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