Since November of last year, I have been attending a Methodist church in downtown Harrisonburg called RISE. For those who know me, this news may seem a bit odd; after all, I am not a Methodist and still am a member of a local Presbyterian church. So what would draw me to this church? Well, like a playwright or a musician, my actions were inspired by a woman.
Now, in truth, my church attendance in recent years has been a bit spotty. Since coming to the realization that I was no longer a Calvinist, I dabbled in a few other churches, including the Seventh Day Adventists, but nothing ever lasted for more than a month or two. My last roommate at William & Mary, who has since become a Methodist minister in the northern Shenandoah Valley, had been encouraging me to rejoin a church community, but the problem was that my faith no longer fit neatly into a preformed denomination.
Although I was never specifically invited to RISE, I decided to attend my first service back in November as a way to show this friend that I cared for her. In the weeks and months that followed, our relationship flourished, was snuffed out, rose again from the ashes, and has now, unfortunately, disintegrated completely.
I’m not going to into the details of what happened here, but I will say that it has been one of the most difficult times in my life. The joy of discovering someone who became so special to me only to lose everything, to find my hopes and dreams that I had been building high into the clouds suddenly collapse into a heap of useless rubble was almost more pain than I could bear.
And yet, through these difficult trials, much like my friends, RISE has been there for me. It is much more than mere church service every Sunday; it is a group of fine individuals who genuinely care about others, who ask me how things have been going, who know of the trials I’ve suffered, and who have prayed with me through the whole ordeal. They have given me the strength to carry on when I was at my lowest and, as you might imagine, I am immensely grateful.
So what’s the take home message for you, my good reader? Although there is great merit in studying the scriptures on your own, as I have done most nights before bed for more years that I can remember, my advice is to similarly find a supportive religious community that you too can call home. Sure, you may have theological differences, I still don’t consider myself a Methodist, but that doesn’t mean that one cannot find and forge strong bonds with new brothers and sisters in Christ.
In closing, although my Facebook friends have already heard this song, I’d like to share a bit of music I listen to when I’m sad or my faith needs a little bolstering. Given that RISE plays contemporary music, maybe one day they will play this one as well.
Whatever dark trial you maybe be facing today, or a new challenge that arises tomorrow, it is likely that you too could benefit from the folks who meet in the theater behind Capital Ale in downtown Harrisonburg. Perhaps a community like RISE will give you the support you need to endure.