Finding Our Place Again

So, you all know how much we love our church. When we first moved to Orlando, we began attending First United Methodist of Winter Park almost right away and mostly out of convenience. It was, literally, right down the street from where we were renting, and during those months that I was unemployed, I was desperate to seek out a community where I could belong. And that’s exactly what I found there. I remember the exact day when Chris and I felt that this church was our home. We were having a really rough week. Chris’s paycheck was not enough, I was still on the job hunt, we were feeling particularly homesick for Connecticut, and so we put Michael in his stroller and spent the afternoon trolling downtown Winter Park. We window shopped and felt the sun on our faces, and it was good for both Chris and me.

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We ended up at the church playground, and so we stopped to let Bean play for a bit. We had only been coming to church there for a few weeks and hadn’t met anyone yet, but it was still the only familiar place we had in our new town. As Bean was playing, our minister, Dr. Bob, walked by on his way back to his office. He saw us and came right over to say hello. We introduced ourselves and explained that we were new to town, but had been enjoying his sermons for a few weeks. It was a brief 10-15 minute conversation, and Chris and I left with the confirmation that Dr. Bob was even warmer and nicer in person than he seemed in the pulpit (if that was possible).

About a week later, on Sunday morning, Chris and I were leaving another great sermon and we stopped to greet Dr. Bob in the narthex of the church on our way out. Not sure if he would remember us from the playground, I was just about to re-introduce ourselves when Bob threw his arms around me and said, “Katie! Chris! It is so great to see you again! How’s Michael?”

And that was it.

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In a time of great uncertainty and loneliness for our family, here was someone who called us by name. Someone who knew us and cared about us. We decided that very afternoon, after just over a month of attending First United Methodist, that we would join and become members there.

A few months later, I would be so incredibly grateful that we joined this church family when I battled depression and a spiritually dry season in my life.  I met with Jayne Rideout, one of the associate pastors, and she gave me such wise advice that changed my life forever.  Her kindness, strength, humanity, and faithful guidance was a gift from God.

And again, when my dad passed away, it was this church’s pastoral staff who came to our side.  We received phone calls from all the ministers at our church within a week of Dad’s passing.  I cried on the couch in Dr. Bob’s office as I tried to reconcile my anger with God.  And Gary Rideout, Jayne’s sweet husband and another associate minister, reached out to me for the entire year following Dad’s death, always sending me grief books and kind letters of encouragement.

When we bought our house across town, the 45-minute commute to FUMCWP became somewhat of an issue. Now, going to a one-hour church service began to take up half our day, and that didn’t include Sunday School or any additional classes we wanted to take. But at that point, we were really just going to church on Sunday mornings there, and for such a remarkable pastors team, we felt the drive was worth the effort.

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Slowly, we began to get more involved in the church. I started attending Bible study classes and volunteering, and most of those opportunities in a church happen in the evenings during the week.  But for us to get back to Winter Park from our new house meant driving straight through downtown during peak rush hour traffic. It was a nightmare. I remember taking 6 or 8-week courses at the church on Tuesday nights, and it would require Chris to leave work an hour early and fight the traffic one way. Then, we would hand off the kids, and I would fight the traffic for over an hour going back the other way. Not to mention, I had to leave over an hour early for a 7:00 class, which meant that one night a week, I missed dinner, bath, and bedtime with the kids. And for a working mom, that was really tough. I began to turn down opportunities to become involved simply because commuting to church was a logistical mess.

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We started to think about changing churches at that point. The area of town that we moved into had a very active Methodist church that was very close to our house. But we were hesitant to let go of Dr. Bob and the pastoral staff at our home church. About six months ago, I joined a women’s small group at this new church. I had been praying for a group of prayerful women to join, but the proximity at our old church never made that possible for me to attend year-round. Finally, I found one offered at the closer church, and the women I have met there have truly been a God-send. Through our weekly meetings together, they have introduced me to all different parts of the church’s community, and I have had nothing but positive experiences. Still, moving our entire family to this new church was going to be a commitment.

What finally made that commitment worth the effort was the kids. Bean is getting to the age where church has more to offer him than simply sitting in nursery during Sunday services. But, again, all of the children’s activities were either during the day during the week while I worked, or they were offered around 4:00 in the afternoon. And with our travel time and my job, we just couldn’t get Michael to any of these activities.

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Chris and I talked about it for MONTHS. We so wanted to stay where we were in our church life. We felt plugged in and involved and more strong spiritually than we ever have been before. But it was time to think about the faith and spiritual life and needs of our kids. We wanted them to be able to be as involved as we were, and they would never be able to do that in a church so far away. Plus, if we switched now while they were young, maybe Michael would meet some kids in Sunday School that he would eventually have in his (gulp! gasp! choke!) kindergarten class next year, making that transition smoother for him, too.

A little over a month ago, Chris and I wrapped up the last of the areas where we were involved in our old church and I stopped reaching out and volunteering in new projects. It broke my heart to pull away from that church, but I continued to pray about it and gradually, we stopped attending on Sunday mornings. We have been attending our new church for about six weeks now, and while I miss those Sunday morning sermons and seeing familiar faces when I walk into a room, I feel good in my heart about our switch.

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Michael is now attending Sunday School regularly (he was hit and miss at the old church, depending on how traffic was and which service we were able to attend), and this Sunday morning he had his first choir rehearsal. He’ll be singing in the Christmas Eve service and participating in the nativity pageant, too. Even Gracie came out of Sunday School on the first day and said in a very uncharacteristic way, “I LOVE new church!”  (Though, I’m 99% positive that response came from the Halloween candy craft they made that morning…)

All of this is wonderful and I know that we are planting ourselves in our community and church so that we can grow in fellowship with others right here in our very own neighborhood. And for that I am very thankful. But Sunday mornings are not quite the same for me right now. I feel a little lost as I wander the new campus, and I am playing that horrible game of “testing every group I can until I find where I fit in.” Chris and I are committed to becoming just as involved at the new church as we were at First United Methodist, but that initial adjustment period in a new place – church or otherwise – can be unsettling.

I’m hoping that in the next week or so I will get a chance to visit with Dr. Bob and some of the pastoral staff who have so greatly impacted my life from First United Methodist. To tell them what a profound impact they made on our families during a time when we desperately needed a friend and many prayers. To tell them thank you for giving us a home when we felt so lost. To hug Dr. Bob, especially, and tell him how he changed our lives by simply remembering our names.

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Our new minister gave a sermon a few weeks ago about what the church is. He said that the church is not a building or a place. It is the people who touch our lives and bring us closer to God. If that is true – and I believe that it is – then my heart truly does rejoice because Dr. Bob Bushong, Jayne and Gary Rideout, Kathy Bradshaw, Carrie (x2), Dawn, Kristi, and all the other friends who we feel like we are leaving behind, are not actually left behind at all. They are forever part of our church family.

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If you’re the praying kind, Chris and I would like to request a few specific prayers for our family that we would be so appreciative for you to add to your prayer list:  That we might come to feel more present and at home during the Sunday morning services.  That we might find a couples or family small group to join together.  That our kids would begin forming meaningful, lifelong friendships built on the foundation of faith.  Thanks, guys.

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24 thoughts on “Finding Our Place Again

  1. So, I know exactly how lonely it is to change churches when you love the church that you’ve been going to. I’ll definitely be praying that you guys find family at this new church – and quickly! And that you begin to feel at home there.

  2. Megan

    I will be praying for your family during this time my husband and I understand exactly what it feels like to be in this situation

  3. Kelly H

    Oh Katie, I totally understand! We are in a similar situation where we were renting when we moved to Tampa and found our church right away. It just fit and we are so encouraged there every week. But now that the house we bought is across the bridge we have had to leave our weekly small group (traffic never allows us to get there on time as it’s on a week night) and it’s hard to even make it some Sundays. We haven’t started looking else where because we do love it but it hard to feel plugged in and I miss that. I will be praying for your new transition and if you think of it please pray for clarity and guidance for us as well!

  4. Nikki

    I will be praying for you and your family. We are also starting a search for a church in our area. I’m just so nervous about it that I keep putting it off. I know I will find the one that is for us, I just need to go out and find it!

  5. I am/will be praying for y’all. We STILL haven’t found a church “home” since we moved back home from Bham almost a year ago. Funny how time flies when you are adjusting…

  6. Oh Katie, another touching and sweet post. While I am not sure I am the right person to be praying for you, I will be sending good thoughts your way!

  7. Bethany

    Oh Katie! He knew your name! Makes me want to commit greater to learning new peoples names at church, and making them feel at home quickly. This was beautiful xx

  8. My husband and I both grew up in the same church in our hometown. We knew EVERYONE and took it for granted. When we moved we were suddenly the new people in the church and IMMEDIATELY realized we had never bothered welcoming visitors. It’s so different on the other side. A few months in I took a chance and volunteered at VBS where a stranger invited me to lunch and made me feel like I wasn’t an outsider. Our paster knew our names and we had no idea how. It was amazing and exactly what we needed. I’ll be praying that you’ll feel the same!

  9. I can relate to this so much! Because my daughter was about to start Kindergarten, I decided it was time to find a synagogue to join. Up to that point, I was still going “home” two hours away for all the Jewish holidays but this year, for the first time, I attended High Holiday services at my new synagogue. It felt weird at first but I got involved right away. It’s been almost a year since I joined and I’m starting to feel comfortable there. I worried I wouldn’t because it is so different from the synagogue I grew up in. I’m sure you’ll find everything you’re looking for!

  10. I grew up with a handful of people that were involved in that church. I remember going to a few youth group events there in high school and had a great time. With the drive though, I don’t blame you at all. Traffic during rush hour makes it nearly impossible to go anywhere too far in Orlando. The church was there for you when you needed it but now you can extend that welcoming environment to your children.

  11. that kind of welcoming environment*. Praying but I know you’ll be fine!

  12. Jenna

    I’ll be praying for you guys! Moving from a small town to a bigger city has been hard for me, especially church-wise. I crave the same community. I love that Dr. Bob knew your name! What a true example of Jesus!

  13. Tara B

    I will never forget walking into your church for the first time. I said to my husband this doesn’t feel like a church. We prayed throughout the service to give us a sign. Then right before the service ended Todd noticed Coleman Technologies donated something to them and that is where he worked before it was bought out years ago. It was our sign at the time. It felt like many didn’t reach out like the smiles in WP but I attribute that to so many come and go in that church. But one thing I did notice I had never seen was the accept EVERYBODY. In the surrounding area not just community it is very well known for their acceptance and of course their productions at holidays. I participated in MOPS for a while just after the entire leadership had switched over. Still I was hesitant. It is never hard to be the new girl but it sounds like you found a place in your bible study. Good for you.

    You have always been so inspirational in my faith. And although our lives took turns in different directions and the days at meeting at the splash pad lessened you always were in the forefront of my mind as someone who inspired me and always will. So thank you. While you may have been seeking those to guide you many found strength in your encouragement to find our churches our faith families. And sometimes that path took us right along yours and other times it turned. But none the less it has been a pleasure to turn to someone my age and just read and be reminded its ok to seek not its ok to plug in and plug out. That we will find our home and our church.

    As always you know I wish you the best of luck finding your peace with the church again. I can’t wait to hear how the Christmas service goes. And I hope one day we may meet again a little older, a little wiser and with our children who could be friends. God Bless you and your family Katie.

  14. What a wonderful post. I hope you’ll feel at home there very soon. We have a community that we visit very irregularly that we were just saying we’d like to go to more and to get involved with the children’s things too.

  15. You will be in my prayers for sure.

  16. Praying for you and your family as I understand this transition very well.

  17. Oh Katie! We are in the same spot right now and honestly it’s killing me! I don’t like change so to move churches where we have been the last 3+ yrs has me stressed out! We have found what we think is the new one, but not having that familiarity of the same building, people, pastor, etc. is what’s doing me in! I know exactly how you feel and will be praying for you, if you could pray for me I’d appreciate it!

  18. Andrea in SC

    I needed to read this post so badly! My husband and I are in the same type of situation, where we moved away from the church we got married in, where we became a couple, knowing everyone, participating in the bell choir, etc. It has killed me not being able to be a part of Wrightsville United Methodist. But yesterday, I decided to try out a new church nearby….a literal leap of faith. It was pretty good – lots of welcoming people, but I’m not sure if it’s The One yet. Will definitely keep you in my prayers and would appreciate some of the same type! <3

  19. We, too, changed churches in the last year. We were members at the Methodist church my husband attended growing up. Eli was baptized there, life was good. Then, our beloved pastor retired and we weren’t loving the new pastor. He’s a spectacular guy and we adore him as a person, but we weren’t into his sermons at all. A lot of our friends attend that church, but we felt we weren’t getting much from it anymore. Around that same time (December 2012), a friend asked if I would come play guitar and help get the worship team started at a new church plant. I had never played/sang in front of anyone but family before, but I felt a calling to try it out. Long story short, our church launched in January 2013 and we have a church home and family that we never thought possible. The amount of love and support from people we haven’t known for very long is absolutely incredible, probably a lot like you felt at FUMCWP. I’ll be praying that your new church is a great fit for you and that your spiritual lives are fulfilled there. Also… thanks for writing about stuff like this. I love that you wear your faith so boldly!

  20. Kat K

    Katie, I completely understand what you are going through… My husband is in the Army and every 18 months to 2 years we are posted to a new location. At our previous posting we attended both a Catholic and a Lutheran church and after months and months of reaching out and trying to make friends within both church communities, we found ourselves still re-introducing ourselves to the same people every week. I was so disheartened by this that I stopped going. We have been in our new location for 5 months and I’m too scared to attend the local churches here, for fear of not feeling welcomed or accepted by the very community in which I normally seek solace.

    I pray that this transition is smooth for you and your family and that your hearts are truly full from the experience xxo

  21. Church is a HUGE part of my family’s life. I personally know how it feels to be connected to a church that you love. Know that I am praying for you and your family to find your place in this new church and time in your lives.

  22. Lois

    I don’t normally make comments but wanted to assure you that you will find your place. We changed churches when my daughter was in Kindergarten because of the children’s programs the new Church offered at a time of day this working mom could get her to. She was in the Children’s choir and continued to sing in choirs there even throughout HS. This was amongst the many other things she participated in and the memories that were created. Most importantly it was where she grew in her faith and accepted Christ. When she comes homes from college she still wants to go to Church as a family there which just warms this mothers heart. Prayers your way but sounds like God has lead you to your new Church home.

  23. Switching churches is tough. I think you always miss the church family you left behind, even if you’re attending another wonderful church. The church becomes another family to you and it is hard not to be with family. I’m so glad to hear you have found another church closer to home. It may feel awkward for a while but hang in there. It sounds like you have found a good place and it will get more comfortable as time goes on. And in a few months or a year you will hate to think of ever leaving this current church. I’ve said prayers for the requests at the end of your post as well.

  24. I too am in a place where I pray for more friendships and community. I have immigrated to here last year and so I miss my friends. We also live 30-40 minutes away from our church and we find it too far, though we see clearly God wanted us here in this town. Changing churches is not what we want at this point and moving is a costly something and doors do not seem to open in that area. So for now, I will just pray that God provides friends for both of us.
    I am so glad you are experiencing community for the second time around in Fl. I pray community continues to deepen for you!

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