This has been weighing heavily on my mind and heart lately. But to be completely honest, it's been much longer than just 'lately'. Actually, it's been bothering me to some extent for the past two years.
I moved to Austin from my small hometown right after graduating high school. Of course, I have a church at home that I know I have always and will always be a part of, and it has a special place in my heart.
*And as a side note, I'm super pumped for the upcoming St. John's 4th of July picnic! Check it out here.*
However, moving to a new city, I longed to have that sense of belonging at a new parish.
Sadly, this did not happen. Not in the many years since I moved away from home.
Sure, I would go to mass on Sunday morning and participate, week after week. But I didn't attend a church that I really felt that I belonged to. Maybe it was because there were not many younger people my age - they were mostly older families, or at least families with babies - no one that was college age, at least that I noticed.
Moving farther north (I pretty much moved every single year, until I moved in with my husband), we began to attend a church just down the road from our place, and mostly, it was great! It was more modern and there were definitely people there our age, but something still just wasn't right. I couldn't place my finger on it exactly, but it bothered me.
With my faith getting stronger and stronger, the want for finding a church where we belonged ate away at me more and more. So, it was time to take matters into my own hands. I didn't want to attend a church that would take us an hour to get to. We're not morning people, so waking up extra early to travel to church was just out of the picture. And my research began.
This past Friday, I finally found a very possible contender, so Sunday morning, we headed out and attended a new church.
AND WE ABSOLUTELY LOVED IT!
They are a fairly new community and their service was amazing. The actual church was so stunning, even more so because they have a giant glass wall looking out towards the trees and it was raining - so it was just glorious! I'm really excited to have found this parish, and we can't wait to go back week after week, hopefully leading up to becoming new members! They also do a lot in the community and have many options to dive deeper into our faith through small groups and bible studies. I'm excited for our new adventures to begin and to become more involved!
I know that to some, looking for a new church is not important or a 'big deal', but to me, it's huge! It makes a big difference when you attend a parish where you truly feel welcomed and that sense of belonging.
Here are a few things to assist in looking for a new church:
1. Research your options.
Instead of just going to the closest church, really come up with a few options that are at an acceptable distance for you to travel. Then, you can find out more about each one until you make a decision. I hadn't done this for the longest time and just attended the closest one. I found out there aren't 'too' many nearby, but enough to still have options! I found this website particularly helpful.
2. Figure out what you want out of a church.
This may seem obvious, but you really have to decide what you are seeking from a church to help make a decision. For me, I wanted an active community with many volunteer options, as well as opportunities to interact with church members and study our faith. For example, I really want to be able to attend small groups and/or bible studies. It's important to both me and my husband, and we wanted to be able to participate with members our age as well as older or younger members. We haven't had this opportunity yet, so fingers crossed! I also really want a church that offers Adoration, so this was definitely on my musts list :). Don't know exactly what you want out of a new church community, please refer to #5, and ASK FOR HELP! Ask your spirital friends what their favorite thing is about their church, and go from there.
3. Go forth and seek the Lord.
When you've narrowed it down a bit, go to mass at the church of your choice (if there are several, try one each week). There's no other way to decide if you really enjoy the church without going to a service and meeting the members. The new church we attended on Sunday had members that were so welcoming. We didn't feel out of place and it was great.
4. Do not be afraid.
Trying new things and meeting new people can be overwhelming and a daunting task. Don't be afraid to really take that step and venture out. If you don't want to go alone, get a friend to go with you!
5. Ask for help.
If you're lost, stuck, or just don't know where to turn, ask for help. You never know who may have the knowledge you are seeking. Upon finding the church we attended this past Sunday, my co-worker also stepped out and asked a friend of hers for any suggestions for my husband and me. I haven't heard back from her yet, but in the meantime, we have a front-runner! Don't be afraid to ask others for help. Whether it be co-workers, friends, family ... like I said, you just never know who holds the key to unlocking exactly what it is you want!
I am so blessed to be on this journey and for all of the newness that comes along with it. I'm excited for what our future holds for both myself and my husband in relation with this new church. Fingers crossed! And lots of prayers going up.