Thursday, October 25, 2007,8:52 AM
Overhearing a Crisis of Faith
So I had another interesting lunch yesterday. No, it didn't involve crazy people being offended that I exist, but it did involve overhearing a rather interesting conversation. I don't mean to eavesdrop, really, but it was impossible not to hear this conversation. And plus once I heard some of it, it was hard to tune out.

Emma and I once again had a day of appointments and errands and stopped for lunch. At the booth right behind us were two older women, they had to be at least in their late 60's and looked the epitome of "grandma." They were just finishing their food when we arrived, but right as I sat down I heard one of them bring up a conversation in a way that implied this conversation was the main thing she had been wanting to talk about all along. She basically told her friend that she thinks she had lost her faith. She describes going through the motions of church, still doing all the churchy stuff, but feeling like there is nothing there. She described it as being like she had been eating at a certain table her whole life but now the table just disappeared and she doesn't know what to do. She clarified that this had nothing to do with anything bad that happened, or anything a person did, it just happened.

I missed what they discussed next, but then I heard her friend suggest she attend an evening service at another church where they do things "differently." The lady replied that she wouldn't be welcome there because she was too old. She then started talking about her relatives who are agnostic but who are deeply committed to a women for peace and justice group. She said this group has been around for over 100 years passionately caring about these things. She said she felt so inadequate just now discovering that she should be caring as well. Her friend just said, I kid you not, "but that's just the social gospel".

That's all I overheard. You can see why I eavesdropped. I found it fascinating to listen to a much older person who has been integrally involved in the traditional church model her whole life having the same crises of faith and awakening to justice issues that many of us in the emerging church are having. Not that I think its weird, just more rare. I felt for her for not feeling welcome at what was most likely an emerging style worship service because of her age. I recall a similar issue at the last Midwest Emerging Women gathering. An older woman showed up to that event and told me that it was the first emerging event she felt welcomed at because of her age. In the promo material I had included a line about how women of all ages are welcome to attend, and it took finally seeing that in print for her to feel like she could participate. I hope this other lady from the restaurant finds a place to connect where her questions are heard and she can pursue Christ's call to justice. I so wanted to jump in on the conversation, but I'm the type person who would never actually do that. I am just grateful for the reminder that these questions are pertinent no matter what age a person is.


posted by Julie at 8:52 AM ¤ Permalink ¤


  • At 10/25/2007 12:23:00 PM, Blogger gerbmom

    Wow, I can relate to how she feels. That's what happened to me. It's just that I had supportive younger friends who accepted me for who I was and let me question, and doubt, and helped me see things through new lenses. Which all just confirmed what I was feeling and thinking. I wish I could talk to that lady....
    tho, like you I probably wouldn't have been brave (or presumptive) enough to either.

    You have the most interesting lunches. Can I tag along sometime??

  • At 10/25/2007 12:55:00 PM, Blogger Sally

    not so uncommon- I spend a good deal of time ministering to such people!

  • At 10/25/2007 07:56:00 PM, Blogger Julie

    Karen - you're welcome to lunch anytime. I'm sure you would have loved today... Emma dumped my entire bowl of tomato soup on my lap in her eager attempt to dip her sandwich in mommy's soup just like mommy...

    Sally - honestly I've found it rare here. Maybe its the Midwest/Bible Belt part of my heritage, but most older (65+) people I know just refuse to engage in questions. Even if they have doubts they point blank say that it isn't worth it to them to give up everything they know just to seek answers. So they stifle the questions and continue of business as usual.

  • At 10/25/2007 10:50:00 PM, Anonymous cheryl

    not rare here, either. in fact it's always been the older people here who have pushed the edges of radical theology and justice. and they're incredibly patient with the slightly arrogant young people who think they're the first to ever ask these questions or have this passion...

  • At 10/26/2007 07:48:00 AM, Blogger gerbmom

    well Julie, I will back you up on this one. In the US, in the Midwest, in our conservative churches especially in states like Ohio and Iowa, what you are seeing is very common. And growing up in the Wheaton bubble didn't help.....

  • At 10/26/2007 08:40:00 AM, Blogger paul

    i can only imagine what crises of faith i'll be having if i get old... i guess the realisation of how little i know will help a lot, especially if i have forgotton a lot!

  • At 10/27/2007 07:04:00 AM, Blogger brad brisco

    This is obviously becoming more common, I too have talked with several older folks who are experiencing the same thing. Thanks for sharing.

  • At 10/27/2007 07:18:00 AM, Anonymous Karl

    I've mentioned before the ultra-reformed church that sent us out of evangelicalism for a time. While there (we were in our twenties), we became good friends with a couple in their early 40's. When we left that church, they were the elder (and his wife) charged with interviewing us to find out why, and they had a hard time understanding where we were coming from. Around the same time, their 19 year old son dropped out of Christian college, suffering from depression and asking all kinds of big (and for them, scary) questions. We became good friends with him as well, having many emerge-ish conversations along the way, trying to show him that there were other ways of being a Christian than the narrow one he knew - that he didn't face a simple binary choice between chucking faith altogether or else accepting wholesale the faith of his youth.

    Our friends, the young man's parents, were both grateful for and at times concerned about the influence we had on their son. But over time the conversations they had with him and us began to change their thinking. They have since left that church too, because of concerns similar to the ones that caused us to leave, and are now (in their 50's) very active members of a new local church that has some pretty strong emerging tendencies. We would still be friends with them even if they had never changed their thinking, but it has been amazing to see God move in them over the last decade or so, at an age and stage in life when so many people's thinking about faith seems set for life.

  • At 10/29/2007 04:58:00 PM, Blogger dianne

    I confess to being an avid follower of Scot's site (and he ain't no spring chicken) and have often enjoyed your comments, Julie, and linking to your site.

    At the ripe old age of 60, I suspect that you may find more of us than you might guess. After all, we were the *hippies* of the 60s and 70s and were the ones questioning how to do church (and everything else) even way back then. Still questioning, after all these years. And if you hear of any emerging church folk out here in Phoenix, please please let me know.

    Thanks for being a good listener / eavesdropper and for posting this.

  • At 10/13/2009 12:45:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous

  • At 11/20/2011 08:33:00 PM, Blogger sport

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