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Monday, June 1, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Paul Turner: Breaking up with church is a deeply personal decision

Paul Turner (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)
Paul Turner (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)

People stop going to church for all sorts of reasons.

Sometimes they lose faith and gradually drift away from religion. Other times, the alienation is swift and sudden. Personality conflicts or doctrinal disputes come to mind.

In any event, the motivations are usually intensely personal. But often when we hear someone describe his or her eventual disaffection with churchgoing, the accounts are decidedly thumbs-down.

You know, tales of bitterness or boredom.

Still, for some of those who have walked away from the collective worship experience, there is another truth. Though they might be entirely comfortable with their decision to leave the pews and pastor behind, there are things about going to church that they miss.

Maybe it’s the heartfelt handshakes or group singing. Maybe it is the tradition-drenched time with family or sincere fellowship with people who aren’t co-workers or neighbors.

Perhaps it’s the occasionally thought-provoking sermons, the boldness of public prayer, Communion, making sales contacts during coffee hour, watching kids in other families grow up in weekly time-lapse or the experience of inherent humility in an otherwise chest-thumping, braying culture.

It could be that a few miss that satisfied feeling of knowing at least one aspect of the weekend had some substance.

Each lapsed churchgoer might have a different answer, just as people have varied reasons for joining churches.

But looking back on Sunday mornings of the past is not just a matter of embracing nostalgia about salty after-service soft pretzels or croaking your way through favorite hymns. It can be about recalling a special feeling – a shared sense that your heart was committed to striving to be your spiritual best, both for yourself and others.

Of course, for many, church attendance was just part of their religious identity. No longer being a regular attender does not imply that an individual has abandoned all the old hopes and aspirations for a life well lived. It might just mean a particular congregation no longer felt like a good fit. Or it could be that a particular community of worshippers seemed at odds with your evolving beliefs.

Perhaps the church in question failed to successfully navigate the rocky shoals of our society’s deep political schisms.

Sometimes people go away mad.

It happens. But the Pacific Northwest has always ranked high among regions populated by those who do not attend church. So, for some, there’s nothing about organized worship to look back on, whether with resentment or regret.

For others, church was just an obligation of childhood or something they did until their families’ denominations drove them away with policies that could not be reconciled with a world-view supposedly shaped by God’s love.

Faith practices inherited from your parents can one day seem irrelevant to the reality of your own life.

Or maybe you just didn’t like the head usher.

For some, those who had been mostly sleepwalking through services anyway, the breakup isn’t all that traumatic. Others though, view leaving their church as among the hardest things they have done.

Perhaps it’s those in the latter group who could most easily tell you what they miss about going to church. If, that is, they can articulate it. The Sunday morning grace notes that resonate through the years can be subtle.

Sometimes, looking back on past relationships, it’s easy to pinpoint the reasons they didn’t last. That doesn’t mean you necessarily forget what attracted you in the first place.

Earth Day Eve ranking of the planets

It seems like it has been a while since I’ve done this. So let’s go ahead, in reverse order.

Uranus: Not exonerated by Mueller Report.

Jupiter: Zero calico cats.

Neptune: There’s no there there.

Mercury: Anyone trying to have a yard sale would just see all the offerings burn up.

Venus: Nobody there mispronounces “Spokane.”

Mars: You can almost see Deer Park from there.

Pluto: Not one of its detractors has actually been there.

Saturn: Distance from both Seattle and Spokane is quite similar.

Earth: Poised for a big comeback.

Making headlines

I saw something online about how millennials are really into brunch. I didn’t actually read it, but it seemed as if that story was going to suggest that these rascally young people practically invented the idea. Or something.

So, in the spirit of making ludicrous claims for one’s own generation, I drew up three shocking headlines of my own.

“Baby boomers love their grandchildren.”

“Report: Aging Boomers prefer being healthy to the alternatives.”

“They call it ‘breakfast’: Early rising Boomers create fun new meal to kick-start the day.”

Columnist Paul Turner can be reached at

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