Why there is a growing lack of church attendance across the U.S. seems to be a perpetual question, spanning at least the last quarter-century of my adult life.

Mike Moore’s Christianity Today article, “The Rise of the ‘Umms’,” joins the chorus of people trying to make sense of this trend.

In this article, Moore coins a new term, the “Umms,” who are described as “disoriented, demotivated, discouraged, and disembodied.” Unlike the “nones” and the “dones,” the Umms are serious about their faith, but are unsure how they want to engage with the church going forward.

As someone who has struggled to find peace returning to the Sunday morning church service after the events of the last few years, I would like to respond to Moore’s article because there are some things he missed.

We’re not disoriented. We’re more oriented than we’ve ever been. We are more emotionally, physically, relationally healthy than ever.

The global pandemic gave us time to reorient our priorities and refocus on what matters. We’ve evaluated and re-evaluated what Moore calls the “helter-skelter rhythms” of pre-pandemic life, which often included church attendance.

We’ve had time to live into a new way of being in community with friends, family and neighbors. And we’ve reclaimed all the parts of what makes us whole, integrated people.

We’re seeing things clearer now more than ever and, in that clarity, we’re stepping away from anything that doesn’t support the integrated life we’re trying to live into. Sometimes that’s the church too.

We’re not demotivated. We are more eager than ever to live out our faith in a practical, tangible way.

As Moore notes, we have been impacted by the indiscretions of pastors who have been called out for abuse and the churches who perpetuate this harm. We have seen the harms against race, gender and class, and we can’t unsee it.

We have grieved as nearly one million people have died of COVID-19 in the U.S. in the last two years, and we grieved again when the church stayed silent on each one of these issues.

Our faith demands that we find ways to attune to these harms. Sadly, many of us are finding that the good work of dismantling these systems of harm is being done outside of the church.

As the pandemic continues and the mental health crisis is at an all-time high, friends and families are experiencing the polarizing effects of political and social differences. And many are grieving the loss of precious family members and friends.

There is much to grieve. But this does not mean we are discouraged. I, personally, am in many ways more encouraged than ever.

The past two years have invited us to slow down and tend to these matters.

Unfortunately, the church hasn’t historically been at the forefront of the kind of healing we need right now. So, many are motivated to find and form new communities that can support these needs.

Embodiment is more holistic than whether one attends church in person or not. Our bodies hold a sacred and valuable wisdom.

The “umms” in my life, as Moore calls them, have done significant work to grow in their relationship with their bodies, to bless their bodies and care for their bodies like they never have before.

We each began with a breath, and with each grounding practice we uncover, we grow in our ability to attune to ourselves and to our community.

I agree with Moore that there is something sacred and beautiful that happens when we can gather in person. There’s nothing I cherish more than when I am able to commune with my faith community in person.

I love gathering with my smaller, like-minded communities, but the more attuned I am to my bones, the more the memory of the Sunday morning disembodied chaos my household experienced pre-pandemic is something I don’t choose to return to.

In his recent book Indigenous Theology and the Western Worldview, Randy Woodley asserts that “There is no place we can go where Jesus is not already present and active.”

This truth provides peace, breath and calm to pastors and parishioners alike. We can stop striving and, instead, trust that Jesus is moving in our communities even if we don’t recognize it in its traditional form.

And then join in the life-giving work of Jesus wherever we see it.

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