Several years ago, I was talking with Chris about the "personal relationship with God" routine. I don't buy the "personal relationship with God" routine, especially not one that argues from there that Christianity isn't a religion. (I get the point he was trying to make, but it was still simply wrong; other religions are significantly different, but they are not simply magical-going-through-the-motions, and it's bullshit to claim that "Christianity" - by which he meant Bible study - is both magically exempted from that and the true, rightful practice of what was first done in Antioch.)
In the end, to stop his well-intentioned efforts to proselytize me, I told him very simply that I did not attend church, and if and when I was ready to do so, I would do so with integrity, and not a minute before.
It was terrifying standing outside. I found myself stalling, struggling to find a reason - any reason - to do anything but step inside. Next week, maybe. In that shirt?, maybe. You have no idea what you're doing, I noticed (rather truthfully.) With different sets of experience, I might have called it spiritual warfare; it's certainly the closest I've ever come to actually feeling that before.
The best way to deal with demons is to work with them, apparently; I simply waited until the coast was clear to step inside, and buttoned up my shirt when I took a pew at the very back where nobody would see me. So of course there was an opening processional, and of course an elderly couple sat down right next to me.
("Have you come here before?" she asked during the Passing of the Peace. "Once or twice tops," I lied honestly.)
Never in my life had I had to get in line for Communion before. (In the Presbyterian and megachurch-y traditions that I'm familiar with, the plate was passed; and in the Catholic tradition that I'm familiar with, it was of utmost importance that I did not get to share the Eucharist, so I spent a lot of time watching from the pews and waiting for Grandma to come back.)
Never in my life had I ever remembered singing and appreciating "Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty."
There's a distinct ritual after service: one paper cup of coffee with cream, no sugar, where you can see the swirl of the poisonous-looking chemical that melted off the paper. (There always seems to be wax paper cups with coffee, and I always seem to grab one before I realize what's going to happen; does anybody else notice or mind the chemical swirl, or is it just me?) Drunk hot, so I'm not in any state to gorge myself on whatever else was served with it.
I'm not sure if the butterflies in my stomach were from the service itself, or from that toxic cup of coffee. I'm reasonably sure that the brink-of-tears feeling was the service itself, though.
If and when, apparently, turned out to be last Sunday morning. And let me tell you, Internets: integrity never felt so beautiful before.