For a whole rainbow of reasons, I’ve never been comfortable with the concept of “shopping” for a religion. For one thing, I was born into the “One True Church,” which, as a matter of policy, frowned heavily upon any such practice. Hellfire licked at the heels of the Catholic who even considered the possibility of finding “more” or “better” at an altar without a crucifix hanging above it and flanked right and left by curtained confessionals. The lingering affect of having cut my teeth on that spiritual provincialism is a persistent unease with the perceived disloyalty of going from church to church until you find one you can live with.

Childhood prohibitions aside, I simply lack the social “eptitude” required for the search. One of the primary functions of any church body worth its tithe is to make new-comers feel welcome. Very welcome. Extremely welcome. Way too welcome. For a devout wallflower like me, whose modus operundi in any social situation is to hang back and disappear into the woodwork until I’m comfortable enough to stretch a testing toe toward the waters, all those warm handshakes, friendly hugs, and ebullent invitations to coffee and donuts after service are enough to send me screaming toward the exit before the first candle is lit. It is a cultural ritual for which the most enthusiasm I can muster is to simply grit my teeth and bear it.

And then, there is the problem of my left-leaning political philosophies. I challenge anyone who is not a card-carrying conservative, or at least willing to fake the credentials in the interest of peace, to wade into the arena of Faith without fear of being burned at the stake, or worse. I know I won’t be happy being a closet liberal in a right-wing world. Been there and done that, and I have no intention of doing it again.

Considering all this, I must have felt, ultimately, a deep need for things of the spirit; acute enough to give me the courage to set my qualms aside and launch a quest for a spiritual home. Loneliness and fear can be powerful motivators. The loneliness of a life lived to an ever-increasing degree inside my own head; the fear of moving ever more swiftly toward the end of that life, and having no idea what might lie beyond. And needing to believe that something does, if only to calm my fears enough for me to be able make it to the end without losing my mind. Does this constitute a deep spiritual need? I suppose not. But I guess I thought that desperation for human connection and a need for reassurance on the question of an afterlife were good enough reasons to embark upon the search. Perhaps the purity of my motivation, or lack thereof, was responsible for the outcome of the visit to the first church on my list.

to be continued…

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