“It’s you! We grew up together! You! My best friend! Those long hours of leisure as we walked arm in arm, God a third party to our conversation. My companion, my close friend; we once enjoyed sweet fellowship as we worshipped together in the house of God.” Ps.55:14

This obscure verse of lament comes back to me in the strangest moments. I don’t relate to the other verses in this chapter, but this 14th verse strikes my knowing place.

As this decade ended, so did the communal mission my friends and I started 12 years ago when we planted a church. The church still stands, the ministry continues to thrive but since the beginning, we have lost over 25 founding members. I led worship this morning and broke down because in the crowd so many new faces stared back at me. It isn’t a negative thing to have a lot of new people, but it is the absence of old faces that sucker punched me.

“….we once enjoyed sweet fellowship as we worshipped together in the house of God.”

I feel accompanied as if the writer has experienced the same loneliness.

We wounded warriors who still remain in the church bear the grief each Sunday of what was or could have been. Anyone who has known the loss of a pastor stepping down, a church community dividing or falling apart, a best friend moving away, understands the deep sting. Yet why such an invasive burning? The loss, like all loss, requires grief; but what happens when you walk back into a house of God?

When we walk into a church building, it all comes flooding back. The feelings of comfort, loss, betrayal, goodness, longing, gossip, back-stabbing, hope, and loneliness barrage our mind depending on our experience at church. The house of God is a place where markings are made – baptisms, weddings, funerals, bar mitzvahs, rights of passages we experience with our community while God observes and blesses.

My Sunday mornings are heavy these days when I walk into my church building, I feel the heaviness of the spirit of homelessness due to our church’s ministry but even more, piercing to breakthrough, is the heaviness of those who no longer attend our church.

I miss my friends, and although I can still see them occasionally, I miss their spirits joining with mine in worship, in communion, with God a third party to our conversation. I miss the tender space filled with their hearts and mine. I long for the unified mission to bring peace on earth, to be LOVE, and to hold each other through deaths as we wade through this life.

Honestly, I don’t blame the people who needed to leave the church in order to save their own faith. The term Christian and the actions of Christians have done so much more harm than I ever wanted to know about, so to bear such a title is jarring for me personally. Let’s take a political perspective, 81% of Evangelical Christians voted for Trump, and I have yet to see one act of Christianity be done by our president. If you were to ask me if I align with the “Christian” choice, I would adamantly disagree. So, there isn’t a judgment on those who can not congregate in a church building because they have been misrepresented, abused, harmed, silenced or betrayed by institutions under the name of Christ. I can offer to understand these stories but how lonely it is to gather together without the ones I had once worked together with for the kingdom to come to this earth. I weep for what has been lost by their leaving, and what could have been. I bless my grief and longing for “those long hours of leisure as we walked arm in arm, God a third party to our conversation”.

To all those who have had to leave the church, I miss you dearly, it was never meant to end this way. I am grieved by the loss. Selah.