How Does One Become an Adult at Church?

Even though I grew up going to church I never learned how to be an adult Christian.


As a child, I loved going to church. Before my opa was called home to rest, we visited his church out in the country regularly. My father grew up in this church and I loved everything about it. Before church, my oma would fill our bellies with eggs, bacon, sausage, grits, and toast with strawberry jam. My mother pulled my hair into ponytails held together by twin beaded bands or ribbons or single-tooth plastic barrettes molded to look like daisies. I wore yellow and white dresses with wide satin sashes and white patent leather shoes. I remember the dark oak pews, the stained glass windows, the red carpet, and my grandparents singing in the choir. The Black women wore regal hats, bright white gloves and carried shiny black purses with bright golden clasps. The Black men wore hats with feathered bands and crisp black suits with pocket squares. They prayed from their feet and sang to the rafters. Services were joyous celebrations of the love of God, God’s love of his son Jesus and both of their love for we who were made in God’s image.

Back home, we did not belong to a church but I somehow found my way. In Kindergarten, I started going to church by myself. Every Sunday, the church sent a bus to pick me up and I would spend the entire morning there. Though I did not get the warm belly busting breakfast, I did get to wear my Sunday clothes. The congregation was predominantly white so the singing was more subdued than in my grandparent’s church. Regardless, I loved learning about Jesus and singing with the choir.


In second grade, my mother started taking us to a large, predominantly white Lutheran church. As memory serves, I was always there. Sunday mornings started with Sunday school at 9:30 followed by church service at 11. Everyone enjoyed cookies or doughnuts in the fellowship hall after service. We were either left at church for youth group activities, or dropped off later that evening. I sang with the Junior Choir on Tuesday night. Junior bell choir met on Thursday during Advent. Wednesday nights in 5th grade, we started first communion classes. Wednesday nights in 8th grade, we started confirmation classes. Friday nights we would sleep over for lock-ins. Saturdays the youth group ran bake sales or car washes or took trips to the mountains or to the river. Like I said. Always. There.


In college, I began to explore the idea of faith. I took classes to learn about other religions. I began attending services with other denominations. After college, my 20s were filled with relocations - 7 addresses in 5 states in 6 years - and I abandoned attempts to find a new church home with each move. I was unprepared to be a Christian adult in a secular world.


Then I became a parent.


Then I moved back to Richmond.


Without football to occupy my Sunday morning, I started dragging W to churches in hopes of finding a community, one where he could make a similar connection to faith. I am grateful to have found Ginter Park but still feel hollow. Upon being asked about my faith, all of my points of reference are from when I was a teenager.


I grew up learning Bible stories, but not how to study the Bible. I memorized the Lord’s Prayer (#TeamTrespasses), but not how to pray. I can recite the Nicene Creed and the Apostles Creed by heart, but feel unequipped to either articulate or defend my faith.


Am I an adult Christian parasite? My best friend is a pastor. My older brother is a pastor. My mother, all of her sisters and her entire circle of friends have been praying together for over 40 years. If I have a question about the Bible, I know who to ask. Aren’t adult Christians supposed to know the answer through Bible study and prayer? And does my knowing I have people to ask keep me from doing the work myself?


Even during my service as an elder here at Ginter Park, I felt like a satellite adult Christian. The first year of my term I felt anxiety and stress not knowing how I was supposed to show up in that space and feeling entirely unprepared.


Then came the watershed summer of 2020. As the world imploded, I was called to the Kairos team and my soul felt fulfilled. We discussed the impact of history on current events and I felt uniquely qualified to share my opinions, perspectives and thoughts. I was able to flex my marketing muscle and collaborate with Carla and Alfred on the Black Lives Matter signage. And I championed the disposition of the land on Seminary and Brook in a way that reflected the intention of the Kairos statement.


Is this what adulting at Church is? Being in the right place, awaiting your right time? And, if I keep being in the right place, will someone teach me how to study the Bible & teach me how to pray?


Alicia Neumann is a GPPC elder and a member of our Kairos Team - and she designed this website. She lives in Hanover County, where she has witnessed for racial equity and trans youth in the public schools.

We are featuring reflections from church community members each week of Lent. If you'd like to write for the blog, please flag down Alfred Walker or email him at alfredjameswalker@gmail.com .

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