Recently one of my favorite bloggers ( afracturedfaith ) wrote about difficulty in finding a church where you feel at home. It started me thinking about this. Since 1976 I have been in a church that felt like home. From 1976 to around 1997. At that point I was working with the minister of the church and found myself with ethical differences and joined the church I was working for. I felt at home there until they ended my job and now am struggling to see where I belong.
I asked myself what made me feel at home in the first church and I think part of the answer is the people. They were welcoming and caring. I also think it was a place where I fit in socially. Probably a lame reason but it helped me feel comfortable. The progress toward being at home came as I connected myself to the things going on. I joined the women’s group, helped with Sunday School and just generally made myself a part of the group.
With the second church I was part of the staff which automatically made me comfortable. However, it was the people who made me a part of the church family. I worked through 8 pastors so who was in charge was not a part of my belonging. It didn’t seem to matter.
Bottom line ….it seems that for me the people are the primary reason why I feel a part of a church. There are certain other things that matter to me. I like liturgy so churches like Lutheran, Episcopal etc. fit me better. I like the beauty of the service. That doesn’t matter to some people and they prefer a different kind of service. A church service can be boring if you don’t feel moved by what is happening. That is not all the time but once in a while the whole package gets to some place inside.
The question is can you be a Christian without going to church. In my opinion yes….but. It is a very BIG but. As Christians we are called to service. Living a Christ-like life is what we are to do. It is not easy but we must work to get better at it day by day. That means we can’t be Christian in isolation. Just to sit and read the Bible is not following Christ. Christ did belong to a community. He belonged and loved others.
Church may not be the answer for everyone but when you read Christ’s word make sure you are following his only commandment.
I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
He also gave us the great commission in Matthew 28:19
Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,
I grew up in an era where church was important. Most of the USA were church goers. That doesn’t mean that they were really Christians but they went to church. Which church people attended was sometimes chosen for social reasons. Going to church on Sunday was just what you did.
In my family we had a mixture. My father (of Scottish decent) and mother were Presbyterian. My grandparents were Methodist and my Aunt and Uncle (of German origins) were Lutheran. It didn’t seem strange to me that everyone in my family went somewhere different. The one thing that was understood was that we all had Christianity as our roots. Of all the family my grandmother’s faith was rock solid. She read the Bible every day and prayed faithfully. She also was the perfect example of Christian living. I never heard her speak against anyone, she gave generously, and was kind to all.
Because of this upbringing I grew up believing in and depending on God. Because of all the different examples before me I questioned often, read extensively and never felt constrained by doctrine. I was free to find my path. I think being able to explore helped me to never stop believing in God. God was never static for me.. God was and is bigger than any box anyone ever tried to put him/her/it in.
Today people are exploring God/spirituality in many different ways. Church is no longer the norm. There are many reasons why this has happened. Most of us explore during out formative years. Maybe they find a different path. The path of other faiths may draw them. I only hope that the path each person takes gives them the strength that I find in mine.
My belief is the thing that holds me up when things are not good. I turn to that faith and rest on it. It gives me strength to keep moving on and has done so for 77 years. People help to sustain my life and reflect God’s image to me often but this doesn’t stand alone. I don’t know what people hold on to who have no faith to turn to. Maybe they don’t need one. It certainly wouldn’t work for me. “God is my refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” (Psalm 46)
Life goes on. Christmas Day is past but we are still in the 12 days of Christmas which no one recognizes today. When I was young we celebrated the week between Christmas and New Year’s Eve. We didn’t go to the whole 12 days but at least the holiday was extended.
Now the world is done with Christmas. Today I went shopping and the store has put out Valentine’s cards…..on to the next holiday. . Today so many people are backing away from church and I do understand it. Church is filled with real people….some good…some bad. Many seem hypocritical. They go to church on Sunday and are not at all Christian the rest of the time. Many churches live to perpetuate themselves. They collect money to keep the buildings up and only a token amount goes to live out Christ’s mission. We need to re-think what it is all about.
On the positive side church does provide Christian community. At least I hope it does. The community can hold you up when you are in the depths. Their prayers can make a difference. This is part of living Christian.
So just like people churches are not perfect. They are only as good as the people who inhabit them. It is hard to live Christian in our society. Cynicism seems to often be the norm. It is easy to think that I can’t help people who don’t seem to help themselves. Whether it is logical or not this is what we are called to do. We are not called to judge the need but to carry out the ministry. Jesus didn’t ask what the people he healed or changed were going to do. He did tell them to go and make disciples.
Am I following through?
Christmas Eve I went to the service for the first time in years. We went to his church. It was a beautiful service but I had to leave during Silent Night. For some reason it triggers sadness.
I stopped going at the church where I was employed a while ago.. My husband always went to his church and it was too sad going by myself. For some reason I also balked at going with him.
I think the memories of Christmas when we had small children and young adults are strong and fill me with sadness and nostalgia. Life moves on and rightly so but sometimes the memories (although wonderful) bring on the loss of those times. As we grow older we a not so much a part of the core and feel distanced. It is not that anyone puts us to the side but that we are viewing from a different perspective. We raised our children to be independent. We are not left out of their lives we just have different roles.
Change is always stressful and accepting new patterns a challenge. I will grow into it. I am so grateful for all that I have had and still have. God is Good!
Why is life today so stressful? I don’t remember it being like this when I was younger. I don’t know if the world has changed or I have. Probably both. Instead of hearing local news we hear news from everywhere and the focus is on the sad, tragic, violent and horrible things. Seldom do we hear about something nice. The one good thing to come out of the recent disasters from hurricanes to earthquakes has been the stories of people helping each other.
I have been listening to the book The Tribe by Sebastian Junger. I have ordered the book. It is interesting to find something that follows my own thinking so closely. If you have read any of my previous posts you know I am concerned about how disconnected we all are. There are many reasons why that is so. People move for jobs away from family. Very few people live in towns small enough to know most everyone. Both parents work changing the family dynamic. Communication has changed from primarily face to face to email, internet, social media, and texting. A lot of people do not know and may not have seen their next door neighbor. Our circle of people has grown exponentially smaller. Most of us do not have a wider community that we belong to. As I have said before this may one of the most critical aspects of a church if it is truly a community.
This loss of community has removed the glue that we need to hold ourselves together. There is no way of knowing (since there is no data) if the incidence of anxiety, depression and related problems was as high when we were more communal. My suspicion is that it was not.
Here in the USA we rush from task to task. People work longer hours and get less pats on the back. We are accessible 24/7. I wonder why everyone isn’t anxious. Maybe those of us who are are the ones who get it.
If you suffer from anxiety etc. try a find a community where you can be accepted and find belonging. I have the feeling it will help.
Today we are just sitting here with rain and wind. So far we still have power. We also have a generator for back up. We are just slightly off the coast of Savannah with more islands and lots of marsh between us and the barrier islands. Our tides can be 8-9 feet normally and is any surge hits us at low tide it will be meaningless. The kind of surge projected at this time for us would barely come up over our river wall and onto a small dip before it would reach our lawn. Odds are we will see some wind with things blown about but hopefully not falling trees. I hope we got those out last year.
I have been thinking about some of the reasons that people are leaving churches. Just as with most things the reasons are varied. I wonder if some trend can be drawn from the whole, We have blamed at lot of it on the business of families with both parents working and that is one cog in the wheel. Parents have little time to spend with their children and (hopefully) use the weekend to do that. Many young un-marrieds have said that they find the members of churches do not live out what they espouse and are therefore hypocritical, Of course there are those who feel that the progress of science has made God less believable. All of these things are possible. So what is it about church that is important and why does it help?
In today’s world people are more disconnected from each other than ever before. When people lived in small towns being connected was easier. You might not like everyone but at least you knew them. Today many of us don’t even know the people next door to us. We have little actual support from others and in some cases no network of close friends at all. Church has been a place to find those things. Admittedly, there are some other places cropping up to take that place but most do not have the openness to encourage strong relationships.
This may seem like the wrong reason to go to church but it is an important one. Jesus had his friends around him. They were just as dysfunctional as the rest of us. We all need people to support us. We can study our faith while alone but to practice it we have to be in community. We cannot live it out alone.