Okay, I’m a pastor. It may sound obvious or even self-serving to talk about why I go to church, and why church participation is part of our family life. But I recently read a blog post written by a friend who is not a pastor, who wanted to explain to her friends and wider community why she and her family go to church. (It’s a great read – http://lillibet.livejournal.com/720229.html ) It occurred to me in this back to church season, celebrating why we make church part of our family lives is a good thing to do. When we’re acting counter-culturally by praying and singing and serving together, having reasons helps. When we’re choosing between Sunday School and the fifteen things that must get done before school on Monday, the big picture helps. When we’re trying to figure out how we might invite a friend to give Eliot Church a try, having our own love for this community articulated helps. So – here are my thoughts. And I really would love to hear from you: why do you and your family go to church?
A peace and justice centered vision of the world
There are very few settings in which kindness, joy, generosity, faithfulness, peace, mercy and justice are celebrated. This is where we teach our children to love kindness and do justice, where we become doers of the Word. In this place we learn to turn our energy outward to love and serve our neighbors. More than this, when we speak of our hopes and dreams for our lives and for the world, in this place we talk about God’s Dream, a dream of peace and justice for all people. And because faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen, in a faith community we cling to the belief that this vision may become reality! But because this is a practical community, we work together toward that vision of God’s realm.
Space to Share Honestly, Question and Grow
In our prayer time in Sunday School and worship, we don’t just say “I’m fine.” Our kids can share worries about grandparents, pets who are sick, or bullying; our grownups can say out loud Parkinsons, cancer, forest fire, climate change, racism. We struggle with all of this together. A burden is lighter when shared. And our common sense of hope beyond hope gives us strength to minister to the needs of our neighbors and our world. This is also a place where questions are valued and doubts are welcomed, which is especially important to our older children as they come into their own sense of faith.
An intergenerational and inclusive community
Everyone is welcome here. We value and treasure the two year old and the ninety-two year old. Other than his grandparents, my son does not have deep ties to people over 55 – except through our church community, where he makes cards and sings carols for elders, and they come over to him at coffee hour and ask him questions, and then they work together to serve our Thanksgiving meal. In this place, my family interacts will all kinds of different families, and builds friendships with people of all physical and developmental abilities, too. At church we talk about every single person being God’s beloved child and made in the image of God. That models for my son the way he walks in the world, seeing everyone with loving eyes, and treating everyone with compassion.
A touch of the transcendent
Every once in a while, in the sanctuary or at coffee hour, we feel a love so tangible it doesn’t make sense. Every once in a while, in our prayers, we hear a wisdom so clear it astonishes us. Every once in a while, we hear a note so glorious that we are sure we have lifted up off our seats.
A connection across time and space
People have been gathering around Communion tables for two thousand years, and Christian communities gather around the world. When we are together for worship we are connected to something so much bigger than ourselves. Where else can we say that?
Are any of these reasons on your list?
Do you have a friend or neighbor who needs this kind of community? Maybe they might like to hear why you & yours go to church.