Phase 5 AFTER CHURCH
trusting & settling
We made it.
Phase 5 of AFTER CHURCH is called trusting & settling, and it’s where we find ourselves again, where we get to the good stuff.
No, the grief isn’t over (it never is, really) and the searching hasn’t ended (it never does, does it?) and this whole journey is anything but linear, but when we have that feeling of landing, of settling, of finding a new way and rhythm, a new community, things start to feel really, really good.
Really quickly, let’s recap the journey (and you can click each phase to read the post from that week).
5 stages of After Church:
Recognizing—it’s so hard to first spot the warning signs, to pay attention to what happens behind closed doors, to pay attention to what’s happening inside of us when we realize that things aren’t as they should be
Leaving—oh, the heartbreak and strange relief of this phase; leaving is the pain of separation but the expansiveness that welcomes us as we go
Grieving—don’t let anyone rush your grief; the journey of leaving and stepping into the grieving process, which can take years, shouldn’t be downplayed or ignored
Widening (or exploring)—what an important and sometimes tricky space to inhabit; as you widen and begin to explore, pay attention to how your curiosity shows up and where it leads you, and don’t be afraid
Trusting (or settling)—now we land, we find home, community in a new way
So, here we are. I want to share a little bit more of my journey with you, and where I am currently when it comes to community.
I phased out of being part of an institutional church community in 2019 and haven’t been back since. Over the last few years, it’s been interesting to notice myself widening, asking questions, and wondering where community would show up; my partner Travis and I are both highly communal people, and I think that was one of the most disappointing things about some church experiences we were left with, that they were anything but community, no matter how hard we tried to make space for it.
It’s taken a while, but for me personally, I’ve found two spaces that have become community for me:
—the literary community
—the climbing community
I’ve been an author since 2017, and even though I’ve had other author friends who supported me from the beginning, it was a really lonely process, and to be honest, it is such a weird career choice.
I write books and travel around the country to share my words with people, to inspire and challenge them. But I also need people to inspire and challenge me, and I’ve slowly found that over the years.
Many of the folks I’ve found are from different cultural, racial, or spiritual backgrounds, and we encourage one another toward kinship and solidarity. I’ve found a sense of my own spirituality there, and room to dream of more growth.
Ironically enough, social media has also been a space where I’ve run into some of the most incredibly people I’ve known, people I call dear friends who are changing the world and creating such beauty from grief. Here are some photos of them:
The literary community is home to me, a space where I’ve settled not just as a writer, but as a human being, because even though this industry is highly consumeristic, we are still people just trying to use words as medicine, and I’m so grateful I’m not alone in that.
Second, I’ve found the climbing community, which has surprised me with how much it’s felt like coming home, like finding people who will simply be human alongside me.
Climbing, like many hobbies, is focused around people coming together, so whether it’s at the climbing gym or outside at the crag or listening to a podcast or watching a climbing film, there is so much to explore and dream up together as a community.
I’ve tried climbing a few times before, because my partner Travis has climbed on and off for a long part of his life, but it never really stuck until now, because, for whatever reason, now is when I needed it.
I’ve sold and given away my books at my gym, my kids bring baked goods to share with friends, we talk about life together, or we simply practice embodiment and get out of our heads for a while.
The climbing community isn’t a perfect one, just like the church isn’t perfect. We are still learning how to do things well, how to center voices that often haven’t been centered, and how to care for Mother Earth in a more sustainable way. But it’s a thriving community nonetheless.
We live in a lonely, isolated world in which we are asking some really big, really difficult questions. In such a difficult world, community can be so hard to come by, but so essential.
If you’re in phase 5 of AFTER CHURCH, and you’re looking for community, looking for a place to land, I suggest 3 things:
let community be seasonal if it needs to be