You Gotta Have Faith

When I first started writing about this search in online essays, between the rageful comments from the angry mob came a number of suggestions that I should try religious institutions to find my next best friend. Plenty of people said they made their closest friends in church group. A coworker tells me she met her besties at bible study. A friend of my mother-in-law said that when she first moved to Boston, she found new friends as soon as she joined a temple.

I don’t consider myself especially religious. Though I was raised Jewish, I can’t remember the last time I entered a temple for something other than a wedding or a funeral. But religion is one of the great uniting forces in history, so for me to ignore it altogether during this quest would be a glaring omission.

This Thursday I will attend my first LEADS (Leadership Education and Development Series) meeting, part of the Jewish United Fund’s Young Leadership Division.

I have mixed feelings about it. There’s a part of me that feels like I’m joining under false pretenses. Doesn’t signing up for such a group imply that I’m especially religious? That maybe I’ve celebrated Shabbat more recently than approximately twenty years ago? But then, I’m sure that I’m just the kind of person this group is interested in recruiting. Who knows? After eight weeks I could find a new home in this community. And I was told quite clearly that you don’t need to be ultra-religious. After all, it’s billed as “an introductory exploration of the Jewish community and contemporary issues.” Also, each meeting culminates in a happy hour at a local bar. That sounds pretty universal.

Like every gathering I sign up for (improv, volunteering, MeetUp, Grub With Us) my ultimate goal is to leave the group with at least one new potential BFF to ask out. I’m hoping this won’t be too hard, as I’ve become immune to the fear of hitting on potential BFFs (except for at Starbucks, where I’ve been working a lot lately and can’t bring myself to bother any of the nice looking ladies to see if they want to be my bestie). So why am I more nervous about this group than most? Partly because of the false pretenses thing, but also because I’m worried I’m going in at a disadvantage.

One of the results of my not being religious is not knowing very much about my religion. When I started my improv class, we were all beginners. None of us knew what we were doing, so the playing field was level. Here, I figure the others who’ve signed up will be more informed and have stronger opinions than I. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, I just don’t want to be the group laughingstock.

But that’s what this search is about. Going outside the comfort zone and all that good stuff. So Thursday I’ll show up to my LEADS group, on the prowl as usual. Then, of course, I’ll report back.

Have you made any close friends through religious institutions? What is it about this environment that is so effective in bringing people together? Do you think I’m giving a false impression of myself by joining in the first place?

12 Comments

Filed under The Search

12 responses to “You Gotta Have Faith

  1. Debbi

    I have made some nice connections with other women through volunteer work @ my temple. Religion is one less barrier to get through when making friends-there is a common denominator that can actas an ice breaker.
    No I do not think you are going under false pretense.we all join groups for different reasons-friendship,volunteering,learning new things- and I believe we come away knowing something new about ourself. Good luck!

  2. Lorrie Paige

    I joined a meditation class a few months ago, suggested by my boyfriend, although I was looking for a class like that to join anyway because I need to improve my concentration more in helping my personal spiritual beliefs. An added bonus will be finding a BFF, but that was not my initial intention as to why I joined. I haven’t made any friends there yet. I try not to join groups just solely to look for friends; I find if I do join just to look for friendships, and don’t make any, I feel somehow “cheated” and that I wasted my time (time seems to get more precious the older you get, I think). So I always join places I would join anyway if I wasn’t looking for friends, so if I don’t find any, I still benefit from joining because that wasn’t the main reason I joined in the first place. Plus, maybe there is some reasoning behind “if you go looking for love (be it romantic or platonic), you’ll never find it.” So I try not to go to places with the myopic mindset of entirely going there just to find a friend. Although I do certainly keep my eyes open for potential friends as the *bonus* of my going there.

    Finding a friend in places I join is a goal for me, but not the only goal.

    The meditation class is at a type of Western Buddhist Center, but you don’t have to be Buddhist or really believe in the teachings of Buddhism. I believe in some of the philosophy (Buddhism is really a philosophy than a religion), and I do love to meditate.

    I think it’s easier to find friends in any place where you see people on a regular basis (1-5 days a week)and it’s serious enough that people attend regularly, like school, or religious gatherings. That’s why most people have friends from grade school, high school, college, work, church, temples, etc. all serious places where people who are dedicated will be there 1-5 days a week or more where you can see them a lot, thereby getting to know them better.

    I don’t think you’re giving a false impression of yourself if you are at least a little interested in the teachings of LEADS. If you are going to places purely out of finishing a story for work purposes, as I guess you do have a deadline? And actually you are not really looking for friendship personally, but just to do a story about it, then I would say there is a falseness there, but you really are searching for a genuine friend, and as you said, you may find a new home in that community, which makes you sincerely open to that as well, keeping yourself honest to yourself about it.

    Ugh, this is way too early for me (now 6:25am Pacific Time); I’m going back to bed.

  3. Natalie

    A great place to learn more about your faith and learn that there are others who also don’t know it all. I don’t think you are going under false pretense either.

    Whether you find a friend or not who has the potential to be your BFF does not matter. Perhaps you will find a place you enjoy regularly attending and just being with people with similar interests. this may also eliminate some stress of what type of “date” you will have each time you hang out.

  4. I made some GREAT friends with I joined my church 4 years ago. At first I was super nervous. I thought that they wouldn’t like me because I wasn’t super religious, I didn’t know a lot about the church, and sometimes my sense of humor gets a little irreverent🙂 It helped that my husband already had friends there. The church offered plenty of opportunities to bond with other members. I quickly found out that these people were not the judgmental a-holes I thought they would be. They were real just like me and just happened to have a lot of faith in God. They are still good friends of mine today and would be better except now we all live 30+ miles away from each other. I think its great that you are putting yourself in a position to connect with others of the same faith. It is nice to know that you can socialize with them and talk about more personal matters of faith when you are comfortable.

  5. Several people have suggested I go to church to find friends, but I think that would be building a friendship based on an assumption that I go to church. Which I don’t. (Beyond simply not going, I actually despise it for reasons irrelevant to this blog.)

    So I completely understand your discomfort.

    Is it something you would do if you were *not* on the prowl for a BFF?

    If yes, then you have no reason to be uncomfortable (beyond the usual nervousness about trying something new).

    If this is not something you are interested in and are only doing it to look for friends, I might reconsider.

  6. Pam

    This is one of the pieces of advice that I actively DISLIKE — same with those who are trying to find love — because to me if that is the only reason you are going to church or temple (or any religious group) it just seems odd.
    That could be, though, since I am not from a Judeo-Christian-Islamic religion and therefore do not have established religious institutions to draw from? Being Pagan means that finding others of like mind is much much harder than if I were Christian — and it also means that a goodly amount of the time my friends do not mix with me spiritually.

  7. I wouldn’t worry at all about the false pretenses thing. When you inevitably do the introduce yourself routine, simply admit that it’s been awhile since you’ve been to temple and you’re there to learn a bit more about your religion and also hoping to make a few friends.

    I bet you’ll be surprised how many others are there for the EXACT same reason. Enjoy! And while I’m not Jewish, can I still say, “Mazel tov?”

  8. Andee

    It’ now Saturday, so I’ll ask, “How did it go?”

    About the false pretenses thing: If you think you’re joining under false pretenses, and that bothers you, Don’t. Be perfectly honest about being relatively new to the area and still trying to find your niche.

    It seems like a natural thing for a person to do when they move to a new place, find a group with whom you share something in common. If that something is a religion that you know little about and are not seriously involved in, well, let’s not be picky; you’ve got to start somewhere.

    What about this scenario: you click with some lovely lady who happens to be very well versed on your shared Judaism, and very involved in a nearby temple. Then you possibly get to learn more about Judaism than you’ve ever known before, and maybe an opportunity to get involved, on top of a great success in your BFF search. No losers there, Right?

    I have actually met friends in church before (not a temple, because I’m Methodist). A very nice couple and their little girl started going to our church going on two years ago. It has taken some time, but we are growing close. My very BFF is about 3-4 hours away from me, but we met as roommates at a Baptist college. Does that count as meeting in church?

    • It went really well! I am going to post a follow up shortly to give more details, but I did just what you said. I was honest, said I wasn’t very religious but was in the market to make new friends. I was not alone.

      The reason I even thought to do this was I’d heard from so many people the church was a great place to make new friends… And sure, Baptist college counts. Why not?

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