In the past year I have started looking for a church in Philadelphia. My goal is to find a community where my boys can get a better understanding of God. I’ll be honest that sentence is awkward for me to type, let alone say. Having grown-up with zero religion in my life I realized that I wanted my boys to have something but I am not the right person to guide them.
Updates since this was published are in green. Since the post each church has reached out to me directly. They have offered their support and their time in helping me figure this all out.
I have kept this process private. Part of that is because I don’t really know what to make of it for myself but I do think it is a good thing for my boys. I tend to get caught up with my fascination with religion because blind faith is so inconceivable to me. As you read through this I am at no time being disrespectful but I am just trying to navigate religion for the first time. I am also not seeking your approval or criticism on my process.
There are times during a service when they speak of just being a better person through kindness to others. Which, as a mom, is the kind of thing I am “preaching “ to my children all the time. Now that is something I can be apart of. Then there are those times where everything sounds like a science fiction novel. Walking on water, parting of the seas, drinking the blood of Christ…that is just a lot to take in.
This process for me has been hard, uncomfortable, fascinating and confusing. In the past two years I have visited three churches in our area. I am going to give an overview of my experience but I am not reviewing these churches or the people that have showed us kindness and welcomed us at each service. I am not comfortable recommending a church to you when I am still not comfortable sitting in church.
Why I started going?
When I was going through my divorce I was looking for something. Something bigger then myself. Something to look to, hold on to and to find comfort in. I had nothing. What I did notice for some reason is that the people in my life that were the most grounded and the most calm had a very clear relationship with God. These friends would invite me to church and slowly and randomly I took them up on it.
AHH I am so awkward in Church.
I have now been to church several times but no matter how many times I go I am still awkward. I have to have a bottle of water or a cup of coffee to keep me busy. Let me be clear I am a social butterfly, I am loud and I am friendly but for some reason I freeze during the part in the service where you have to turn to your neighbor, shake hands, and say hi. I also space out during parts in the service that make me uncomfortable. I listen to the parts of the sermon where they break down the stories in the Bible like I am in a Biblical History class (which I love). During the songs I stand but don’t sing. During the prayers I put my head down but keep lifting it to see if we are done yet. I am basically a restless child. And I never fill out that connection card so they can… well, connect with me. But I still go.
I have been to three churches in Philadelphia and this is my experience…
Liberti Church East/ Fishtown
2424 E. York Street, Suite 122, Philadelphia, PA 19125
service 10:00 a.m.
The first church I went to in Philadelphia on my own was Liberti in Fishtown. I went there because it is made up of several young families in my neighborhood. These are people that I come in contact with at the park, people I am friends with, people that just seem great.
Liberti is in a popular, industrial like building that has small hip companies and an event space in the front and the church space in the back. It is bright, warm and modern. Kids are welcome to attend Liberti Kids, which is a modern Sunday school with plenty of toys. I drop the boys off at Liberti Kids, attend the service and then pick them up at the end for the blessing.
Everyone there is welcoming and I would say fairly young. There are other locations and the church is growing. There are volunteer opportunities, small groups and a chance to meet outside the regular Sunday services. This church is where I feel the most comfortable because I identify with the people that go there the most. For me it was easy to take my boys to Liberti because it felt like an extension of a day at the park with our neighbors. Would I go back? Yes… These are my neighbors. This is where I can build on my community.
EPIC/ Manayunk, Roxborough, Center City, Fairmount
service: 9:00, 10:15, 11:30 a.m.
Next I checked out EPIC, which is run out of several locations: Roxborough High School, United Artist Theater in Manayunk and the Susanne Roberts Theater in Center City. This church has more of a marketing engine behind it. It is for “people that don’t want to go to church.” The music is more rock, the service is more humor based. It is very welcoming and it is a little more show-like in the way it gets its message out. Side note this year we did attend their Easter Egg Hunt and it was by far one of the best-run events for families and children I have been to. The Kids Club at Epic looks good. I have not brought my boys to Epic yet. I have emailed them on two occasions with questions but never heard back. They are a bigger organization, which is a little concerning for me. Would I go back? Yes… the way they talk about the Bible is entertaining and I don’t mean that in a bad way.
The wonderful people at Epic got back to me and apologized for not responding sooner. Sometimes things do get lost in the abyss and it did not stop me from attending Easter Service there or any service for that matter. It was nice to hear from them.
The Block/ Port Richmond
Richmond Hall: 2619 E. Indiana Ave. Philadelphia, PA 19134
services: 9:30 + 11:00 a.m.
The most recent one I have been to is The Block in Port Richmond. This is the most interesting one and by far the youngest church I have checked out. They had a guest appearance from a hip-hop dance group at the service I attended and it was great. I think there was also a smoke machine but I cannot be 100% sure. Again everyone was incredibly welcoming. Don’t let the fact that it is in Port Richmond throw you off. The building is beautiful and modern. The boys enjoyed the kids club and did not run over to me when I walked in to pick them up…that for me is always a good sign. All the churches I attended spoke about giving financially. Liberti and Epic always say “if this is your first time and you are not sure about us pass the basket along and we are glad you are here.” The Block focused on giving more directly and spent the most time on it during the service of all the places I attended, which made me uncomfortable. Would I go back? Yes… mainly because they are the most fascinating to me and I have no idea what they are going to do next.
I went back on Sunday, May 3rd and The Block does open communion, which means anyone is welcome to take communion. This time instead of going up to the front the cups and wafers were at everyone’s seat.
So as you can see I have a long way to go. I am busier taking in the surrounding of the churches I attend then working on my relationship with God. I admit that. I don’t know how to stop that. There are times where Pastor Steve at Liberti will read a passage and quote Jesus from the Bible and it sounds just like Yoda. I can’t get past it and all I can think of is “did anyone else hear that?”
I am fascinated by the contrast of how welcoming church is and then you get to the communion part and all the sudden it is very segregated. Come worship with us! Be apart of us! But don’t touch the bread unless you are committed to Jesus. Don’t –Touch-The-Bread. It is my humor of how awkward I am at church, how I interpret things that help me but it is also what holds me back. A special thank you to Toni, Zak and Courtney for always inviting me to church or to a small group even when I make constant excuses …like “it’s national kazoo day there is no way I can make it.”
To be continued.