Changed Lives – Why I Left the Church

 

by Janna Thomsen

Growing up, I had always belonged to a church family. Summer camp, pathfinders, SDA schools through high school. It was always easy to find friends with the same/similar beliefs. Not anymore. Only recently have I started to connect on a Christian level with a few of my friends.

Years ago, I moved back to Seattle from Spokane, and I never felt comfortable finding a new church. Especially because I’d be doing it on my own. I had saved the contact info from all the churches in the area in my phone, intending to visit them, but never did. I also went through quite a few life changing things (marriage/divorce/moving across the country twice, etc.), that made me question my relationship with God. I still had love for Him, but nothing felt right. Time passed so quickly, and before I knew it, I hadn’t been going to church for 12 years.

It took a breakup from my first official boyfriend since my last divorce, that made me finally realize that I had really lost myself and needed to make a change. I wanted a church.

I still had no desire to visit churches to find the right one. The whole idea of that gave me anxiety. So, I decided to use technology to my advantage. I checked online for all those churches that I had saved years before. A lot of them had links to sermons on YouTube. I watched a few, but nothing was getting me excited. Then finally, a sermon from a pastor from Volunteer Park Seventh-day Adventist Church (VCP) in Seattle impressed me. It was interesting. It was relevant.

So I decided to check out VPC. It was a big church with a small congregation. I could get in on the ground floor. Be a part of the establishment of this church. Everyone was kind, the sermon was great, and the music incredible. I then met Elton, who’s eyes lit up when he found out I could sing. I joined the praise team and was able to feel that powerful feeling of worship through music that I hadn’t felt since I graduated from Upper Columbia Academy.

My position at the church eventually grew into me becoming and elder… What?! It was really just the elder that made the church look pretty though… basically VPC’s own interior designer.

Shortly after I became an elder, I made a difficult decision and took a new job in New York City. So I moved across the country. A church was recommended to me, but ugh. A new congregation. Again. I forced myself to go. The music was great, the sermon was decent, but it was well established. I did not feel as welcome there as I did at VPC. the only people who said hello to me are the greeters. And it’s not like I hid in the back. I sat in the middle pew, in the dead center. I went a handful of times for almost a year. Tried to connect to their multiple social groups, but my schedule never permitted.

A year later, I decided to move back home to Seattle. I went straight to VPC. So happy to be home. But just a few Sabbath’s ago, I found out my pastor was leaving. I was actually in tears about it. I was excited about church again because of his sermons and how he had grown our church community. How was this going to affect me? Then I remembered, it wasn’t just him. We have an amazing congregation who are hungry to continue the vision for VPC. I’m scared but excited to see what is in store for us.

I struggle every day with what my relationship with God should be. With what kind of Christian I should be. What kind of woman I should be. Honesty, it’s never-ending. But I do my best, or at least I try to. I just need to remember that I’m not doing it alone.

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