Yesterday I sat on the sidelines of a particular community of faith. My husband and I attended a Shape Note Sing, which we do twice a year or so. (In that way I’m comparable to a Christmas/Easter Christian.) Shape Note singing (also called Sacred Harp singing) is unaccompanied, four-part singing, with each part seated as one side of a square.
Usually I’m the person at the center of the faith community, so the experience of being on the sidelines is still new for me. A few thoughts:
1) I noticed that for many people, this community is a central fact of their life. However, this community is not central to my life. It is a dalliance, a hobby, an interesting sidelight. Result: side-lining is relaxing.
2) I watched people talk in tight clusters, enjoying conversation with their best buds. However, these people are not my best buds. They are acquaintances who, if they notice me at all, have no interest in trying to evangelize me for a heavier commitment. Result: going unnoticed exerts no pull on a person.
3) We stayed for the potluck. Folks had pulled out the big guns with food, but I just brought a pan of brownies made from a box. Result: not-really-trying didn’t make a whit of difference, I still don’t enjoy eating at potluck tables.
4) We left a bit early. This style of singing is hard on the voice and I have to be careful not to ruin mine before a Sunday morning. Result: leaving early gives me a delicious sense of playing hooky (irrational, I know).
5) On the way home we stopped at Holy Cross Abbey just in time for Compline. Yes, another hit-and-run faith experience, only this one on the monastic life.
I’m feeling positively American in my connection to these institutions of faith. And you know what? Faith experiences without commitment are easy. But the result? There’s absolutely no reason to do any of it again for another six months or so.