Somewhat analogous to this is how a lot of people view their religious pasts. Many of us belong to a denomination or tradition in which we weren't raised, but that doesn't mean we have to jettison all that came before because what came before is a large part of who we are now. As UCC pastor Lillian Daniel notes ("When Spiritual But Not Religious Is Not Enough: Seeing God in Surprising Places, Even in Church," pp. 181-182):
These days, very few of people who join our church were raised in the denomination or tradition we are a part of, and we are hardly unique in that. Most of my church members were raised in other forms of Christianity that were less open-minded than ours, and they may have some negative feelings about the church of their childhood. And so they drifted from church and sought to go it alone, without a faith community.
But eventually, they hit something that was bigger than private, self-created spirituality. Perhaps it was the death of a parent, the birth of a child, a friend’s illness, or a lonely patch in life, but suddenly they found themselves remembering some of those childhood Bible lessons. They found themselves recalling the blessings of the Christian faith, and they searched for a church, but they did so very tentatively, not knowing what they would find and afraid of being hurt.
When they do find us, they have the same reaction that so many people do when they discover a welcoming and inclusive church where you are not expected to leave your brain outside on the sidewalk. “This is the church I always wanted to find but didn’t know existed.” But our church isn’t perfect any more than the churches they left are all bad.
A miraculous thing can happen to grown-ups on a faith journey. We come to appreciate moments from our past faith community, as different as it may be from our current one. We may recall a special Sunday school teacher who taught us the “sacred writings” in our childhood.
That is why when people join our church, we always say, “We give thanks for every community that has ever been your spiritual home.” I believe that there really is a connection between who we were raised to be and who we are now. It might not be a straight line, but you can connect the dots. God works through all kinds of religious communities at different points in our lives. No spiritual home is all good or all bad. So give thanks for the small and tender blessings of every place that has ever been your spiritual home, and for lessons you have learned.Amen.