I hate change!
In the LDS Church, we don't pick and choose the building where we would like to attend church. Each congregation is geographically assigned into groups called wards. Here in Utah, a ward consists of a few blocks of homes because nearly every house has a member of our church living in it! Back in Snohomish, WA where I grew up, a ward covered several miles worth of neighborhoods because there are fewer LDS people. In some parts of the world, they must travel a great distance at great sacrifice to attend church with their ward. When my parents first moved to the Seattle area in 1980, my mom had to drive 30 minutes to Monroe to get to church until they built a new building in Everett. As I was graduating high school and membership numbers grew, a church was built even closer, in Mill Creek.
Within each ward there is a Bishop. He has overall responsibility for ministering the temporal and spiritual affairs of the congregation. There are also leaders assigned to be over the children, the youth, the music, the compassionate service, missionary work, scouting, activities, etc. Everyone within the ward has a volunteer assignment. NO ONE IS PAID. It is perfectly organized and universally the same whether you live in Alpine, UT or in Africa! Ideally, everyone works together for the good of the ward. I have been in wards where nobody knows my name, and I have been in wards where I know and love every single person on a personal level. It is in wards where we are taught to serve and reach out to our neighbors, where the gospel is taught each Sunday, where we learn tolerance and forgiveness, and where we build relationships with other members of our faith.
I have fond memories growing up in the Everett 4th Ward. Our ward boundaries had kids from different school districts which was kind of hard for me not going to school with all the same kids in my ward. But we were a Family. We didn't have any other family in Washington State and so our holidays, camping trips (when we went camping once!), and vacations were spent with ward family friends. We played Church Basketball--dividing teams among wards. There was quite the rivalry between wards! :) Because my dad wasn't an active member of our church when I was a kid, I can remember many of these ward families reaching out to our family and I will be forever grateful to some of those who befriended my dad and helped him feel more comfortable when he started going to church. My mom was always involved in our ward in some way or another and her best friends were ward friends. It is always a sad thing when they divide ward boundaries and all of a sudden, you go to church with a new congregation. That happened when I was 12, and I recall feeling a great loss.
Well, fast forward to today...I am convinced that we recently moved away from THE BEST WARD in the entire LDS church! (And there are over 29,000 LDS wards in the world.) I've never learned so much from others as I have living among those people. We must be crazy to have willingly left such a great place! Our kids were taught by some of the greatest people on the earth! Every Sunday, we left church feeling uplifted and inspired to be a better person that week. I miss them so much. We moved less than a mile away, yet when you aren't in the same ward, your social circle is different! Its such an odd cultural norm here!
This new ward is nice and I have no doubt there are good people here. But it is challenging to go to church, look around and see strangers. We have yet to meet our bishop and I can't remember names of people who have kindly introduced themselves, but hopefully we will start to feel at home soon.
Because I am LDS, I will always belong to a ward family. I may not know them yet, and they don't know me, but through service and time, we will!