I've spent a fair amount of time sitting alone at church recently. I'm part of a new congregation my church just launched, a smaller gathering of a little more than 100 people. Several of my close friends, my usual Sunday morning companions, are back at the main campus. And I'm still in the process of establishing regular sit–bys at the new location.
I've been in this place before. When I first moved to this area, I meandered into several churches, sitting alone amidst the happy chatter, looking around and trying to recognize if this was my new Sunday morning home. It took a certain amount of energy to walk into these places of worship by myself. I usually took a seat toward the back so I could take it all in, and so I wouldn't feel like a little deserted island in the middle of a sea of warm community.
During friend shifts, when several close friends have moved or switched to their boyfriend's or new husband's church, I've found myself alone in the pew again. It's a weird sensation to feel lonely in a church you've attended for years, but that's where I've found myself on occasion—feeling like I'm at a junior high dance with my awkward "Is this seat taken?" and "Mind if I sit by you and your family next Sunday?" questions. I'm renegotiating my seat in God's living room.
We all know the odd ache of feeling alone in a crowd. And the last place we want to feel this is in the body of Christ. This is as close as we get to home this side of our eternal home, with all the saints gathered to praise and learn and struggle and grow together.1