Sunday, February 28, 2010

why don't they? I don't know...

Well, I screwed up again, hit the 'enter' button and posted the name of the post only. sorry.

Someone asked me today what I would like as a going away gift. And I said, without thinking, really, "I wish people would come to church...."

I've been wishing that most of my professional life and I know all the reasons people 'don't' come to church--I will be dealing with that soon enough...will I go to church if not paid to do so? But it is still my wish.

If the members of St. John's CAME TO CHURCH there would be 6 or 7 hundred people there every Sunday. That would be a challenge, surely, for those of us who do liturgy. We have nearly 400 on Easter and that's something to deal with. But I think I would be able to master having the church full to overflowing each week.

I know why people don't 'come to church'--they work hard all week and need a break, it is snowing/raining/doesn't look good, there is something else to do, it's just a pain...on and on, I could come up with dozens of reasons about 'not coming to church' and all of them would be valid and correct.

The problem is coming up with reasons TO COME TO CHURCH. Well, I can do that too, but the suggestions aren't nearly as compelling as the obvious reasons not to.

It is a way to be close to God....You can be close to God without ever darkening the door of a church. I know that. Since God is everywhere all the time, God is in your kitchen, your bedroom, the soccer field, the woods, the shore, with the coffee and New York Times. So, if you are consciously 'being close to God' anywhere else--may God bless you. But 'church' is a place where chances are you will 'be close to God', as boring as it is and all that.

(An aside about 'boring', which I'm told Church is, though I don't think so: there is no such thing as 'boring' in the universe. Bring me a cup of 'boring', or a handful, or a teaspoon full. You can't. Boring doesn't exist like a thing. I used to tell people "hockey is boring", but I've been glued to hockey games from the Vancouver Olympics. "Boring" isn't 'out there', waiting to bore you. "Boring" is inside you, ready to jump out. So, if church is 'boring', who you going to blame? God? I hope not. Maybe yourself because you don't bring excitement and anticipation and hopefulness with you to loan to 'church'? I don't know. Something to ponder.

Church is a place to find 'community'.
I would contend that what is most missing in the lives of most people is a 'community'.
We are so individualistic and so self-absorbed that we don't even imagine that the way to live is to live in 'community'. A community, unlike a family, is something you can choose. And there you will find yourself in a way you can't outside of community. Community makes us whole...I do believe that...and that is the primary reason I am so distressed about leaving St. John's. I have found 'wholeness' there and must find some new definition of 'being whole' once I leave.

You just ought to....
There are some things you simply 'ought to do'. Brush your teeth, get a good night's sleep, be kind and compassionate to your family, never abuse an animal--stuff like that are simply 'oughts'. One of those is 'go to church'. You don't have to like it, but like brushing your teeth and being kind to animals, some 'oughts' make you a better person over time, without you even realizing it. Church is one of those.

So, what I want is a full church the last 8 sundays of my time at St. John's. That's what I wish for and what would be the best going away present ever....

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some ponderings by an aging white man who is an Episcopal priest in Connecticut. Now retired but still working and still wondering what it all means...all of it.