I have been struck by the number of people who have reached out and taken the time to respond to the columns I wrote in September about the closing of my church.

I have been struck by the number of people who have reached out and taken the time to respond to the columns I wrote in September about the closing of my church.

It is still painful, but the many invitations and expressions of sympathy and support ease the sting. Our church, Abiding Savior Lutheran, closed two months ago. There are consolations, as we are told in Scripture, even amid the difficulties.

One example: Being active church members, we used to spend most of the morning at church with study groups, choir warmup and the service itself. Now my wife, 17-year-old son and I go out to breakfast, go to church and go home.

Before, she directed the choir, and I sang in it. Sometimes I’d be reading prayers or leading the singing of a psalm. Now the three of us sit together – in a pew – for the whole service. It’s nice, and it won’t last forever. He’ll be off to college soon, and I can’t imagine not singing in a choir sooner or later. For now, though, it’s very good.

But the other side is a nagging pain. In some ways, I feel drawn closer to our denomination, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, more firmly connected than ever to Lutheran teachings and traditions. The pastor from my confirmation days 35 years ago would be proud.

But some things are missing, too. Where will we go for Christmas Eve, and – just for tradition’s sake – will we sing one verse of “Silent Night” in German? Who will remind us to bake cookies for the Community Services League? Who will hit me up to buy another poinsettia? OK, those aren’t the big things, but they are things you grow to expect to just be there.

I don’t care for the phrase “church shopping” – it reeks of the church-as-a-business mentality that is the bane of the modern church – but that’s exactly what we’re doing. A couple of pastors and several friends have said to take our time.

I can insist it’s not shopping, but the brain nonetheless starts drawing up a checklist, as if I were buying a car. Which hymnal are they using? Are they friendly? Do they have confession of sin as part of the liturgy, and is there communion at every service? And of course the biggee: a traditional service (whatever that means) or a contemporary service (whatever that means – ask 10 people and get 20 opinions). You have to work at not making this a blue-or-red, leather-seats-or-cloth-seats kind of decision.

It comes down to this: It’s not about being comfortable. Some of the most rewarding things in life – certainly in church life, for me – are those things that start off with some degree of trepidation, uncertainty and risk. Is this congregation – a new circle of friends – going to challenge me?

It comes down to this too: It’s very much about being comfortable. I welcome the new songs (mostly) but want the old as well. The pastor or a close friend should check when I’m sick. There is reassurance in following the church calendar, the roots of which go back centuries. And it’s just nice to drink coffee and visit with friends on Sunday mornings.

There you have it. I want it all. Good luck with all that.

Some groups from the old congregation continue to meet. Three of us, for example, are reading the entire Bible this year, and our Sunday morning “how far behind are you?” meetings are now held at Hardee’s instead of the church library. It’s been a good experience, full of learning and insight. December is almost upon us, the goal is in sight, and we’ll get there.

All of us are pilgrims, but we keep walking ahead, looking out for one another and offering encouragement. The goal is in sight, and we’ll get there.