by Lisa Neef
[This is the second in a series of six reflections on finding Christian Community in a new city. You can view Part 1 here.]
August: There is a hip, young church plant in Amsterdam, the project of a group of Americans who decided a few years ago to bring the Emergent Thing to Sin City. They have a band and the people who attend are young and good looking, and during worship people raise their hands sometimes, and the pastors wear jeans and hoodies.
I go a few times, to attend worship and, in the summer, a church picnic in the park. People chat with me off and on and it’s a relief to be able to speak English, but I’m new and spend a lot of time feeling like a new kid at school, invited and included because it’s the right thing to do, not because I’m wanted.
Do you know what it’s like to stand alone at church with your cup of coffee? It’s amazing how fast it happens, the collapse of your confidence: you walk in thinking you might have a story to bring, and in seconds, you forget it all.
You look around and realize that they already have a few late-twenties, kinda-pretty / kinda-smart girls, and that everyone there is already friends with one another. You try but can’t think of any reason why you should be butting in on their party, and you decide that you wouldn’t talk to you either, because they are fine without you; you are not needed, and only half-heartedly wanted. What are you doing here? Why are you begging these people to be your friends? Every second is a struggle not to run away.
Much about this young church in Amsterdam is admirable: they bring cookies and friendship to the Ladies in the Red Light District, they pray for Amsterdam, they build bridges between Americans and the Dutch. They love doing church. And yet, The Hip Church just doesn’t seem like the way to go either.
I know that if I attend enough parties and picnics, I can eventually charm my way into the group and meet a lot of people in their twenties, be greeted by name, maybe develop a crush on one of the guys in the band, crawl slowly from the out-group to the in-group.
It’s a social game, but somehow my own relationship with Jesus seems so different from this that I soon stop making the weekly trek to Amsterdam, and stay home, comfortably alone with my Bible.