On Crying in Church

We started going to a new church. I think for some people this isn’t really a thing. They do it every few years, or every few months. They don’t start so they don’t ever make it to the new part. There are just churches, one old one new.

We aren’t like that. My parents still go to the church they found when they were just married. They tried out three and ended up at one because they served communion every week and the choir spent the majority of their time sitting with the rest of the parishioners. That was that. I know every inch of that church building. It is as much a home to me as the house my parents have yet to move out of.

I had every intention of having that story. I know that for some it is heresy, but for me, well, I really hope to grow up to be like my mom. I wanted to stay. I was hoping to stay. I planned on it, really.

So here I am, not staying, looking for new, feeling out if perhaps we had found it. I told God when I left that I needed somewhere to land. God does not always agree with me about what my needs are. It seems this time, perhaps we agree. And I am sitting in the historic sanctuary, filled with light and art, but not quite enough heat. Historic, it seems, is synonymous with drafty. And I am crying. Not just a few tears, really crying, silently.

It suddenly occurs to me, as my shoulders shake and I try not to breathe too loudly, that the congregation that has met me warmly does not know that when the Spirit moves, I weep.

Once, while praying in front of my (old? Is it still mine? former?) congregation, after reading the Scripture, something broke inside and I started crying before I could get out the “amen.” I managed it and then walked all the way down the side aisle and out the back door. Someone found me outside and told me it was good. That my broken prayer ministered to them that day in a way that a well thought out sermon never could.

I miss that easy comradery. I miss people knowing that crying is just another way I worship. I guess I miss being known. But this takes time, the knowing, the being known, these things take time. And I am sad for that, so I cry.

I sit in this quiet sanctuary and actively remind myself that it is right and good to feel whatever it is what I need to feel, and cry some more. I wipe away the tears the best I can so that no one else will feel weird when we are passing the peace.

I manage to keep it together until the final hymns and the communion. The breaking of the bread always breaks off some of the hard pieces inside, and I am again undone. This new church has communion every week, so I figure they will get used to this faster. At least I hope so.

I think about how I cry in movie theaters, at plays, in my home, sometimes when I read a particularly beautiful passage out loud to my students. I often cry when I am tired, and almost always when I am watching Parenthood. I think about how I like that about myself, that the feelings come freely and easily if I let them. I think about how I want to be in a church where the crying and the laughing just come when they come.

I figure I am only in charge of myself. So I go to the prayer corner after the service is over and I ask for prayer. I start crying before I even finish my request. By the end of the halted and sometimes awkward prayer (can you blame her? I mean, this new girl is just crying all over), the pray-er has tears in her eyes. She tells me that she too is a tired mom with too much on her plate. She tells me she will remember me this week, and I believe her. And I am crying again, because I am grateful.

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16 thoughts on “On Crying in Church

  1. I, too, cry when the spirit moves me, could be a song, a prayer, scripture or just a touch. You are not alone. I remember an overwhelmed and tired mother. I will pray for you.

  2. Transition is never easy, and especially in church, I think we have to allow someone to cry in safety and validity. I have a friend who cries all the time. We call her the Weeping Worshiper. It’s kind of funny but not. I hope that you’ve found home. I would say that if the Spirit has moved you to tears, perhaps that’s a good sign!

  3. Okay, my eyes are filled with tears now, that’s how much of a crier I am — I can’t even read about other criers without crying! You will become known at this place, too, and loved, but it’s hard to go from a place you loved for so long to a new place, even when it’s a good change that you’ve sought. I had the added pressure of starting at a new church because my husband was hired there, and then there I was crying every Sunday because this wasn’t my prior church. And then I’d have moments of the Spirit breaking through through these new people, and that would make me cry. Church criers of the world unite! With tissues!

  4. I love this and have been on a similar journey these last few months. From reading your piece, I actually wonder if we have ended up at the same drafty, historic church that serves communion every week and had a prayer corner. Whether it’s the same church or not, I hope that your new place of worship is as soul-nourishing as mine has been for me. I really love your writing and have been following your blog for years. Best wishes!

  5. Beautiful. I too went to one church all my life and a few years ago had to find a new one. Such an odd experience, all the variables and wondering what really is important and what is just preference, and then realizing everything takes time now. The not being known yet – I loved (still do) my new church and still cried after service every week for 2 years because it wasn’t quite the same, the familiar, the closeness of the past I had. Don’t give up….you’ll get thru and they’ll be familiar with your ways soon – and how encouraging that you’ve already met someone who gets you – no one is going thru it alone 🙂

  6. I live in CT now but grew up in Iowa, started attending there from the age of five. I finally found a UCC that I feel comfortable in here, but find that every time I go, I cry at a couple different points. I think it pulls at a place from my childhood, but not really sure. I’m glad to know I’m not the only one…

  7. I too often cry during worship services and prayer. It is never a sad thing though. When I pray, and especially with others, Holy Spirit fills my heart so full that it just can’t hold it. It tends to leak out my eyes… tears of joy to be so loved by the one who created me… to realize I am a part of that Creation. When you truly believe in the God you worship and realize your connection with something so much bigger, stronger, more loving than your own smallness, how can you not be brought to tears of awe. God blesses me. I know it and am grateful.

  8. We guys cry, too, in church or out, when we see The Spirit at work, in people two millennia ago, or sitting a few rows ahead of us. It feels like pride in the amazing power of this Love we worship and occasionally touch. Blessings, all.

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