Returning to Church – Part 2

Find Part one of Returning To Church here.


I sit through Mr. Hawaiian Shirt’s sermon and am not offended.  That’s a start.  He, rather ironically, preaches on peace – the fruit of the spirit that I am lacking this day and many others. Even so, I determine to shoot out of this building as quickly as I can once it’s over – and to under no circumstances fill out the dreaded visitor card.


I run up the stairs to retrieve my children from their various classrooms as soon as Mr. Peppy McEdgy finishes his closing song.  I successfully grab two of my children before I find myself caught in small talk with a guy who looks like he was a surfer dude in another life but is a dad and Sunday School teacher in his present incarnation. I smile and nod and chat – after all, I’m more of a b*tch in my head than in conversation.  A few other people gather and the mingling lingers.


For the first time I notice a fairly attractive man probably in his 30’s standing across from me.  He has obnoxiously perfect McDreamy type hair and is wearing the oddest expression on his face – one that speaks of a cautious fear. Like he’s happened upon a rattlesnake and he’s not sure which direction it’s going to strike. And then out of his mouth comes this:


“I commented on your blog.”


In the next few seconds, this happens in my brain:


Wait. What?  Did that just happen?  I jumped in my car, drove more than 3000 miles, walked into a church and someone knew who I flippin’ was?  What the crap? And this guy hasn’t seen just any post – he’s specifically seen the post that says we’re afraid of visiting a church in Canada because we’re so freaking jaded and wary. No wonder he looks so scared.  He’s probably thinking “Holy crap, she’s going to blog about my church!” Dammit. And I’m so much fatter in real life. I bet he’s thinking, “Wow, she’s so much fatter in real life”.


With any luck, none of this is playing out in my body language but let’s call a spade a spade – I’m terrible at hiding my emotions. I don’t bother to wear them on my sleeve but all over every inch of my face.  So for the next several minutes I chat with Mr. McDreamy Hair while consciously trying not to come across like a poisonous reptile by channeling my best deer-in-headlights until finally the conversation dies down and I’m free to gather up the Wild Things and find an exit.


The front lobby of the church is packed with people, despite the service being long over. Fresh coffee and cookies are being served and people are just . . . visiting. Talking. Laughing. Mr. Hawaiian Shirt and Mr Surfer Dude do a tag team maneuver and smother us in kindness and brotherly love. Hawaiian Shirt even talks me into filling out the dreaded visitor card by baiting it with free coffee giftcards. How can I resist free coffee giftcards? Brilliant.


Inexplicably, we find ourselves invited to Surfer Dude’s house that evening for a powwow of a potential small group starting in the Fall. And so a mere hours after that gut-dropping initial drive into the church parking lot, I’m sitting in a stranger’s living room. Mr Hawaiian Shirt is cracking jokes – apparently that’s his thing. Mr Surfer Dude is serving everyone at once. Even Mr Peppy McEdgy is there, sitting mostly quietly besides the keyboardist – his soon-to-be bride.


And despite the perfectly deplorably attitude that I woke up with this morning, I’m enjoying myself. I’m learning real names and dropping the condescending nicknames that I’ve been slinging maliciously in my head.  And I’m thinking . . . maybe this whole church thing won’t be so bad after all . . .





  1. Once again, hilarious!!! Hmm God was certainly in that ‘church visit’, am interested in where this takes you ;)

  2. This made me smile. I’m glad you found church that went well for you.
    And yeah. I’ve been there too – judging everybody around me and then realizing that when it comes right down to it, I’m the one who’s being the arrogant jerk.

    I hope that church continues to work for you.

  3. I had a very similar attitude about a specific church many years ago. For a while I would not set foot in there, then I ‘gave it a chance’ but it was with the utmost caution and a running commentary doing laps through my head. Pretty soon I felt a nudge to give their young adult’s group a visit and ended up meeting a girl that had just returned from a missions trip with the very same group that I was preparing to leave with. She invited me to hang out with her friends afterward and fifteen years later, I still consider them some of my best friends…especially the one that I married once I returned from my trip. :)

    You never know what God has up his sleeve.

  4. “Like”. Or, “Mega-Like”.

    Too funny, Jessica. If you had landed about 4 hours south of where you’re at, I could’ve been the guy saying “I commented on your blog”. (Except I’m way over 30-something, with whacked out grayish hair. anyone referring to my hair as McDreamy would sorely need glasses.)

    Bet it was amazing how much that meeting at the pastor’s house felt like a house church, huh?

    That’s the fun thing with the body of Christ: we tend to find community where we least expect it, yet exactly where God wants us. Hope all goes well for you guys!

    • Community is the key word there and what we needed.

      And at least if I had landed at your church it would’ve been less of a surprise!

  5. Dear Jeremy and Jessica,

    My wife and I can relate to much of what you are going through. We were saved over forty years ago during the “Jesus movement” and have been involved in a quite number of institutional churches and house churches during our spiritual journey. We thought you might also be interested in our website which we hope encourages you.

    In Christ’s love,

  6. Good deal! I have been an avid hater of churches my entire life as they were shoved down my throat. But not usually a hater of those that make up the church. Any people you feel a tolerance burgeoning on becoming an enjoyance is a good place to start…

  7. OH I so remember that first time I went to our church. A new town. All I saw was gray hair, no contemporary music (used to that). I pulled away – “never never will I go there”, I said. But God had other plans and after some time at another church in town he brought me back to the first “gray hair ” one. Now those gray heads are good friends. I can worship even with old music. I have learned that it is God and people that make a church – not the trappings, not the building and not even the programs.
    Blessings as you meet and grow in your new community,

  8. Remember when Kelly and I both said that not all churches were like what you were experiencing in Georgia? It looks like you might know what we were talking about now! The church we go too seems a lot like how you are describing this one. Except that whole gathering in the foyer? Sometimes that drives me crazy. I feel like I have to bulldoze people just to get out of the building. :-p

  9. Julie Williams says:

    I love a happy ending!

  10. LoL! That would be so stressful!! I’m glad it went well though!

  11. So… you visited my church. Not metaphorically, but for real. And I admit, the first part of this series had me upset. I started writing a response, but decided to wait for the “happily ever after” and I’m glad I did.

    I will admit that my unfiltered reactions to church in general are often the same. My husband is not a fan of worship services either (you’ll recognize him as the guy with his arms crossed, NOT singing, but he’s really not as grumpy as he looks, I swear). BUT it’s a game changer when you know the real people, not just the in-front-of-the-congregation schtick. And in this case they are wonderful people which makes all the difference. It’s why we stick around. So welcome. And thank you for this second post. I’m glad you have the guts to write with such unvarnished honesty. I’m not sure I could, but I hope someday… I’m enjoying your blog and if I do meet you in the hallway someday, I’ll probably be a bit starstruck and awkward.

    Also, I will NEVER let Mr. McDreamy Hair live down the nickname. Never.

    • Yes the people make all the difference. If there’s a sense of intimate community, I can swallow a lot of other things I might not think are perfect. And you should totally say hey! I’m not that cool in person, I swear. And I’m fatter in real life, did I mention that? Ha.

      And seriously, his hair? It’s magical.

  12. I always take myself way too seriously when I visit and start analyzing a new church. Thanks for making me laugh and reminding me about what’s important! (I’m also inspired to be a little more…honest…in my blogging.)

  13. oh this post was amazing. Thank you SO MUCH for your honesty and making me laugh. I hate visiting churches and my mind goes just about how yours does!!

  14. You are so funny. I loved the description of how you thought he was looking at you. I am glad you have found a place–church burnout and leaving church can be so hard.

  15. One thing that has me cringing a bit in these comments is the “happily ever after” references. I’m skeptical of using the phrase “happily ever after”… mainly because I’ve seen The Real Housewives of New Jersey and Hoarders. Happily ever after in the church is like that elusive unicorn… maybe it exists somewhere and you hope that is the case, but reality says that most churches are just a different kind of messy. “One person’s garbage is another person’s treasure” so to speak. I’m grateful that God has given you a place at this time and in this space to breath and learn and be you. That might not be a happily ever after ending (as so many of us all have learned with time), but it will certainly be a guided by the hands of God, opportune timing, learning, growing and being teachable kind of thing. That’s what is so amazingly wonderful about serving a great big God – He knows the timing of what you need and where you need to be and when. Praying this new space and place finds you closer to His heart for you and your family… no matter how the ending – “Be joyful always. Pray continually. Give thanks in all circumstances. For this is God’s will for you who are in Christ Jesus.”

    • Truth! This isn’t an “ever after” at all, it’s a beginning. And the honeymoon is always sweet.

  16. That’s awesome! Love it.

  17. I love this. I loved yesterday’s too… mostly because you were so honest about your thoughts. We all think horrible things about people or situations at some time or another, but rarely are we so honest about it. Your humility is contagious! I can’t wait to hear more. And this church sounds a lot like ours here in Maryland. I was a little put off the first time by how ridiculously happy and welcoming everyone was, and then I came to realize that they really were/are happy and welcoming. That kind of thing happens when you find a group of believers who have never gotten over the cross. It’s very sweet, and it is a balm for those of us who are tending wounds from other churches.

    • It really is contagious.

      Funny, this church is much like ours from Maryland, too. Did you know that we lived in Severn?

      • Totally reading all these comments. What church did you go to?

        • The Church At Severn Run.

          • We did have a chat about that a while back. We are in Frederick. As a southern transplant, I really like it more here than I thought I would. Except there are just as many stupid mosquitoes here as in SC. And now I have really veered off-topic…

          • I’ve heard of it but don’t know anyone personally that attends. Was just curious. I love finding people who are/were in MD.

            Jenn, what church in Frederick? We used to attend a church in Lisbon/Mt. Airy.

    • We live about 20 minutes south of you (Gaithersburg/Germantown)…. which church do you attend Jenn? – From a curious, four years on the outside of church, refusing to church-shop woman :)
      ps the mosquitoes here are horrible… which is ironically a metaphor for our last church experience.

      • We go to Sovereign Grace Church of Frederick; it’s a plant from Covenant Life. And if the church you left was CL, then please know that I don’t think you are a crazy person. And if it wasn’t, then please disregard that last comment, and know that I am still sorry for whatever happened that caused you to leave your church four years ago.

  18. Pauline Galley MacDonald says:

    Sometimes you really DO walk into a church home that feels like there was a spot ready for you before you got there. Cherish it. I’ve found that those churches have an honesty that is refreshing. :)

  19. Mr. McDreamy Hair says:

    So here it is, in long form, in which I unexpectedly met J-Bow, JB and the Wild Things AKA The Bohemian Bowmans,

    After stumbling upon their blog through a mutual Facebook friend, I began reading about this family that had traveled across the country and ended up in my hometown in British Columbia of all places, Deep South meets the Great White North, a fish out of water could you say? On top of that JB, the sexy linguistic husband, is attending the CanIL school, where we know friends there as well. So it was with a curious interest that I’d go back once in a while and read how the Bowmans were doing adjusting to life in Canada.

    One day a post came up on looking for a church in the area, with a warning that they basically left the ‘institutionalized’ church and were part of a house church back in Georgia. I knew there was no point in suggesting my church as we are quite mainstream and perhaps even institutionalized. Having lived here most of my life I am quite familiar with most of the churches in the area, even hearing of some house churches. So I thought I could be a friendly local and comment on the blog saying I know of some house churches in the area. J-Bow responded with some interest in wanting to know some more information. I ended up having to do some emailing to get further details and found information for one house church. I felt I had possibly helped the new Southern folk find a church and I could follow along on the blog how things went.

    Then one day as I was picking my kids up after church and engaging conversation with a friend I look over and this surreal moment comes when I see the Bowman tribe in the flesh! My mind is thinking ’What are these people doing in my church!?’, ‘Do they know where they are, are they lost?’ ‘How did they end up here of all places!?’ So I interrupted my conversation with my friend and said I had to talk to these people.

    So I go over there and not quite sure how to introduce myself to them, I said ’I commented on your blog’ – definitely the first time I’ve introduced myself to someone that way. I can’t say I sensed panic on her part, but more of a type of insecurity, possibly common with extroverted blogging types who can be somewhat shyer in real life.

    I also met the introverted husband and mentioned to him some people I knew at CanIL, again sensing that unsure feeling from him of being in some strange church probably hoping no one was going to talk to him. With some others around I introduced them like we were long time friends. ‘They moved all the way from Georgia to Langley, he goes to school and she’s a blogger’ ‘Oh what blog is it?’ J-Bow mumbles ‘it’s a blog I run called bohemians bowmans’ I could sense the downplay in her words, possibly wondering where the nearest exit was.

    Later downstairs I can overhear the conversation between Surfer Dude and his wife almost cornering the first-time-never-to-come-back-rebel-Southern-couple, saying ‘So we’ll see you here next week?’ In my head I’m thinking ‘Not likely’, I’m glad I was wrong.

    • I am SO much more subdued than I come across here on the blog when I meet someone for the first time.

      Also, I feel silly every. single. time I tell someone the name of my blog.

  20. This is exactly the kind of stuff my brain is struggling with whenever we visit a service! My son (10) loves filing out the card though, and I don’t have the heart to stop him. Last time he innocently wrote something like, “Please pray that my headache will go away.” I was at a loss for words to explain why I was laughing. :/