When I left home to go to college I did not know how hard it would be to be a single New Church member, trying to live the values I had been taught growing up, in communities that never encountered a Swedenborgian before. Yet I have decided that the New Church is my guiding faith. College is an interesting atmosphere—I found there were two camps of people: those who questioned God and looked down on those who believed in God unconditionally; and those who believed in God and did not understand those who questioned religion or did not believe in God. This was extremely frustrating because some of my closest friends do not believe in God and I do not see them as less than— I just see everyone else judging them for that.
To be a successful single New Church woman trying to get a formal education and to follow God's Providence, I moved my religion inwardly. I reminded myself regularly why I believe in God and why I believe it is important to ground oneself in religion. I definitely left formal religion behind, and it takes time to focus on religion (which for me meant reading Scripture) when you have no one else holding you accountable. But my faith never wavered. I needed to take a hiatus from organized religion, but I made sure to not lose my faith in God and my faith in Providence.
In school we are taught that each religion has a purpose and truths to share but never really focus on what each religion teaches, so I found myself looking things up in the Writings on my own to see what was said. I found myself appreciating how devout people were and have learned to love those differences, we do not focus on that in the church schools I went to and I think that was initially a disservice until I focused on the universal teachings and left the idea that the New Church is the one and only church.
The New Church faith is so direct and tangible, we spend our time discussing and rationalizing the Writings of Swedenborg. I found that far from my church community, other churches do not do that and I missed that. So, I made sure to find friends who were strong in their beliefs, whether it was religious or not, and found a strong community of people who are just trying to live a charitable life. I made sure to create my own New Church community that is focused on living a good and charitable life.
Note: Megan Malone is currently attending University of Oregon working on her Masters in Conflict and Dispute Resolution. Her focus is on reforming the mediation process to be a vehicle to social justice for people of color and studying racism as a form of trauma and finding ways for people of color to heal. In the little bit of free time that Megan is able to find she enjoys going to sporting events (Go Ducks!) and trains at cross-fit.