My Personal Church History

One of the by-products of my American training in Pastoral Studies is a strong emphasis on the self: the individual. This is tempered for me by a personal connection to the community, but the importance of a personal perspective runs through all my writings. In the late 80s I started emphasizing “personal theology” as distinct from the corporate beliefs of any church we might attend: I taught that we should all know our beliefs well enough that we can identify any patterns an priorities that differed from the general stand. Such variations were not necessarily bad: in fact I thought it was not only natural, and illustrated maturity. More recently I’ve also come to understand that we all have a “personal church history” that parallels and informs our individual growth in beliefs.

When I was in school at Moody, one of our classes was “Church History”. It was one of the more interesting classes that we had to take (or perhaps it was the teacher) because it helped me to understand where our faith… my faith… came from, and how the perspective today is strongly rooted in culture, time and place. Having spanned two thousand years, our priority of beliefs is not the same now as it was at different times of the past. This is not necessarily a matter of any time “abandoning” the faith or losing key elements: it’s a matter of different perspectives at different times, different people interpreting the world and their faith in their own time and space.

Last weekend, my pastor challenged me to identify exactly why I go to the evening service at St. John’s York Mills Anglican Church. It wasn’t something specifically directed at me, but it was something that started me thinking. I have attended a variety of churches in my life: and have definitely felt called to the ones I have treated as home. In fact, I generally have made a conscious choice to not leave a church simply because I’m “tired” of it: I believe that my commitment to a congregation and to a church community must be powerful in order for me to call it home, and there are few examples of churches that I’ve chosen to leave. Mostly, there have been some significant event that has caused me to change my place of worship. Usually I’ve been leaving the area, so it has not been physically possible to stay, but other events have also intervened. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that my evolution of changes have been reflective of my personal, spiritual development. I thought it might be good to jot down some notes in this regard, and to explain how my changing perspectives have also lead to changing churches.

Below is the list of churches I’ve attended. Each time, each church, is included with a keyword that describes my growth during that time. Over the next week I’ll be posting full descriptions of my experience in each.

Years Keyword Church
63‑73 Childhood St. Stephens Anglican (Toronto, ON)
73-83 Abandon The church of the world (Toronto, ON)
83‑84 Discovery Waterloo Mennonite Brethren (Waterloo, ON)
    Waterloo Christian Fellowship (Waterloo, ON)
    Willowdale Baptist (Toronto, ON)
84‑86 Student Moody Church (Chicago, IL)
86‑88 Commune Jesus People USA (JPUSA) (Chicago, IL)
89‑98 Leader State College Christian&Missionary Alliance (State College, PA)
99‑00 Coming Out Various (State College, PA & Little Rock, AR)
01‑06 Recovery MCC of the Rock (Little Rock, AR)
07‑09 Stumbling MCC Toronto (Toronto, ON)
10‑11 Emerging St John’s York Mills Anglican (Toronto, ON)

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