As a Christian, do you believe community matters in faith, or do you think faith is a solitary endeavor?
Personally, I think that it is a combination of the two. I also think that the pandemic opened up a lot of new ways for us to connect spiritually.
Finding a healthy community in the church has always been a challenge for me. I understand that is not a reality for some folks, but it is not the reality for many of us.. This has led me to seek out faith on an individual level more so. However, I have been blessed to have a wonderful Christian family as an influence on my life.
The first weekend of May of 2022, I accomplished two big things: graduating from The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga with my degree in Marketing and completing my second mural in downtown Chattanooga. Completing these two goals was a big deal for me considering it was not easy to go to college during a pandemic and one of my main goals that I set out to complete from the very start of my college career was to paint a mural downtown. May 7th was a very special day in my life not only because I achieved two really big goals, but because I was able to celebrate them with my family.
I grew up with two loving parents and a whole extended family that has challenged me in my faith and spiritual growth. My family was there to support me growing up in the church, through my spiritual deconstruction, and even helping me reconcile back to faith. I am lucky to have a family that has been an example of what it looks like to betrue people of faith.
If it wasn’t for the support and loyalty of my family I probably would not have come back to Christianity. I know that church is not like this for everyone, but I have struggled my whole life finding a spiritual community in the church where I feel that I belong and am connected. I think a lot of this has to do with growing up as a pastor's daughter and seeing all of the political drama that can separate a church. I think it also has to do with our polarizing political culture and feeling pressured to pick sides.
Doing faith alone
Over the past four years spirituality has been a solitary endeavor for me. One reason is because the pandemic sort of made things that way and second, I did not feel like I belonged at any church. I believe that there are some moments in our spiritual journeys that we are meant to walk alone, but I also don’t believe that we are meant to do the whole journey alone.
Because of my time spent alone in my faith I was able to find new ways that I was able to connect spiritually to others. During the pandemic I found YouTube channels and podcasts featuring people who were asking the same questions about God, faith, and Christianity as me. I was able to watch and listen to stories of people who were going through the same things as me. Finding these online communities allowed me to not feel so alone in my journey. It made me feel like I wasn’t the only one who was struggling with spirituality.
Another cool way I was able to connect with others spiritually was back at the start of the pandemic. I came back to faith in 2020 and I started writing articles on UMC.org. Throughout the past two years of writing I have been able to share my thoughts on faith, and I have been happy to hear back from readers who resonate with my work. Writing these articles has allowed me to think more introspectively on my faith and experience with the church. It has allowed me to connect with others who have gone through similar things.
All three of these things–my family, the internet community I found, and writing–have drawn me closer to God. However, it truly was my family that brought me back to Christianity. They helped me through little moments when their support meant a lot. For instance, when my mom came to visit me when I was trying to make sense of the death of a friend. She helped me process and grieve.
At the end of my graduation celebration my grandmother came up to me and gave me several encouraging words of advice, but the one thing that she said that stood out to me the most was that “Your family is your strength”. I think that is true for the spiritual community you will find in life too. Whether your spiritual community is related to you by blood, or just through a strong relationship, your spiritual community is your family, and they are there for you during the good times and bad.
Madison Myers is a graduate of The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, majoring in marketing. She has traveled to a majority of America's National Parks and is eager to see them all.