Growing up in a fundamentalist, evangelical Baptist congregation in rural Indiana, my congregation had a constant in-flow of “new converts” from liberal, mainline Protestant congregations and from the Roman Catholic Church. These new members would hear the message of individual repentence and the hope of being “saved.” Often, these converts were middle-aged adults who had stopped going to church after high school. They would talk very negatively about their past church experiences as dead ritual, as places that produced a lot of guilt, and as places that believed you “work your way to heaven.”
As an adult, I have found so many people like myself who grew up in a fundamentalist, evangelical, conservative background who have “converted” to these more liturgical based denominations– often liberal Protestant, Catholic, or Orthodox. We long for a worship that does not depend on me and my experience and what I can get out of church/God. We want a faith that is about the community and world rather than the individual. We long for rituals that will create space for worship, and we want a faith that seeks to do God’s will here on Earth just as it is in heaven. These former evangelicals, including myself, often talk negatively about our conservative backgrounds.
In some ways, these two groups represent two seperate faiths. But I always believe they were meant to be one faith that is balanced. Each strand by itself is a fallacy. Together they make up the truth of the Christian faith. God wants to change me, convert me, and save me. God also is greatly concerned with communities, social justice, the ritual of worship. God cannot be bound by ritual and thus speaks openly and newly to us. We cannot just have such a casual relationship either, thus we have orders of worship that story us in the ways and nature of God. I have the hope of being changed because I am part of a greater community. That community as a chance of being renewed and becoming God’s kingdom because God has changed me.