Not So Churchy, a 1001 New Worshiping Community of the PC(USA)

Kristen Guest reflects on how her community cultivates belonging. Both online and in-person, their doors are always open to everyone — even after worship begins!

It’s at the times we least expect – as our years are passing, with arms wide open – when we’re taught life lessons. I recently came to the realization that belonging is cultivated. Our sense of belonging may be started by a community’s leaders, yet it is honed and developed by the community itself.

Why do I keep coming back to Not So Churchy? I belong. Since joining almost 10 years ago, what I have found is that not only do I belong, but so does anyone who chooses to be with us.

COVID-19 has wrecked a lot of us. We have all lacked social outlets and stimulation. We experienced the deconstruction of our lives in almost every area. At Not So Churchy, this same deconstruction was taken into account.

We used to close the door as worship began to honor the sound and safety of the consecrated space we had cultivated, and during COVID, we hopped on Zoom like much of the rest of the world.

Now, however, there is a noticeable difference: there is no more meeting inside literal walls.

During our Zooms, we had the added twist of sanctified laughter, holy banter, divine community  — and the ever-sacred chocolate hour. Today, the door is never closed, literally or figuratively. It’s impossible! And we love you just as you are.

Once we created an online presence – with the occasional in-person, geographically specific romp in the park or Christmas market frolic – we realized that community wasn’t as small or centralized as we thought. Service participants came from near and far: Minnesota, Texas, upstate New York, Canada, and more. Our spoken invitation is, “Come as you are … really!” The unspoken invitation implied is to bring your full selves: your autoimmune illnesses, your ailments, your crippling migraine, your grief, your hope for healing and your pain. By embracing what was around us as a community, we have found a way to become more rather than less, and we are stronger together. In this community, I’ve learned more about being over doing. I’ve learned the value of my body and mind, my laughter and weirdness, and my pain and joy.

I see more God, more Christ and more Word-Made-Flesh in this queer group of more beliefs than I knew possible.

I see more of Jesus in a community of atheists, Catholics, Protestants and loving humans.

Every one of us needs something different — and you know what? At Not So Churchy, we all get what we need. Together, we give, we receive graciously and we ever-abide in the loving embrace of God.

Not So Churchy is one of the early 1,001 worshiping communities of the Presbyterian Church(U.S.A), and while we don’t have membership, our participants come from all over the country. Our presbytery home is the Presbytery of Southern New England. We worship one Monday night a month via Zoom, have other online activities, participate in thoughtful image-led prompts and prayer requests through group chat and gather in person regionally as is possible.