unmasking church

I grew up in the church.

I don’t remember a Sunday, except when the Minnesota snow was thick and heavy and the radio station announced closings, that we didn’t make the trek to church. We were always early, we were always serving, we were always there. When I was really young we met in a dusty, lower level American Legion Hall. I don’t remember much, well, except the smell and the darkness of the space.

That’s me. In the green, with the knee high socks, posing with my parents for a church photo for the directory.

My parents are amazing people, by the way. They have a tenacity to believe in their purpose that leaves me humbled. The idea that they would give of their time in this way, week after week, year after year, has always proved to be a motivation for me when I think something is impossible. Look at those that do the impossible to inspire you. That, is my folks, by the way.

Yet, as an adult I marvel at the dichotomy between exterior and interior, between perceived and reality, between masks and real.

I think that the early days of church planting instilled in me this healthy skepticism of the outside because part of me always knew the inside.

I knew the feel of paper under my fingers as I folded bulletins that others would just hold.

I knew the feel of rejection as doors were shut on us as we handed out flyers.

I knew the feel of hope as new buildings were built.

I knew the feel of disappointment as numbers weren’t filled.

I knew the feel of time given, of hearts prayed for, of hope.

I knew the masks, the behind the scenes, even in church.

No one talks much about those spaces.

I believe it is time to unmask church just a bit.

Maybe it’s because we believe it to not be true, to believe that this space is sacred, and yet, the older I get the more real I believe it truly is and the more we need to talk about what happens behind the exterior, behind the surface. Whether it is the suicide of a young minister or the constant seeming behind the scenes uncovering of abuse, there is this necessary dialogue about church and masks that needs to be talked about.

Because otherwise we all go into the space thinking we need to hold up a mask to fit in.

And yet, yet, if you look at the real spaces, the real truth of this place, it is to be a place of real, of authenticity, of coming to get fellowship and healing. Throughout time it was a place for weary to get rest. Yet, if the rest is replaced by a mask then we all end up becoming weary.

Think about that.


As a child I spent Sunday after Sunday after Sunday transforming rooms into Sunday meeting spaces. I saw how the alter was moved to the front and the chairs lined in rows. I saw the minister move from walking in to donning his robes. I saw the changes in the people from the parking lot to the seats.  I saw the exuberance for the football gatherings in the afternoon and the silence in the worship in the morning.  I saw lives shattered.

You see, we all need to talk, to drop the masks.

Otherwise, the church is just a place to meet, not a place of truth.

Not a place where we leave stronger.

We just leave tired.

That young me, I learned the power of masks, of illusions, at a young age.

What happens when we dare to look at the person next to us in line at Starbucks and be kind? What happens when we drop our masks in the next book club group that we are in and admit where we really are? What happens when we disrupt the culture of the church from being put together to being there for each other? What happens when we actually start living what we believe to be true? To give and to love and to care?

I believe that is when real healing, real change, real lives are affected.

Dare to speak about the hurt and the freedom.

Dare to rip down the facades and talk about the realities.

Dare to go up to your minister and move beyond the surface and really invest.

Dare to show up over and over.

Dare to not judge.

Dare to unmask.

Dare to be brave.

While I don’t write about religion often, I will leave with this truth – Jesus didn’t avoid Samaria. Did he? No. He went through it, he met with those there, he talked with them.

We need to do the same.

Be there.

Show up.

Remove the masks.

Talk about the real stuff. And not judging, but loving, but showing up.


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The Brave Art of Motherhood, my book about unmasking motherhood and making daring changes will be released on October 9.

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