Organized religion is imperfect, as imperfect as its participants. We are all imperfect beings, flawed in our own unique ways. Being part of a church family can be uplifting and inspiring at best, distressing at worst.
Actually, it is generous to describe the worst as merely “distressing.” To paraphrase a nursery rhyme from my childhood: When it is good, it is very, very good. When it is bad, it is horrid. I’ve seen good, and I’ve seen horrid.
When I was young, I saw only the good–a church environment that was loving, caring, nurturing, supportive, and fun. I was too naive to understand the causes of sudden departures and shakeups, shielded from painful truths.
After college, out in the wide, wild world, the habit of regular church attendance was broken. The lifestyle I adopted in the big city did not include church. My belief system was ingrained, I thought. Sunday mornings were open, and church was optional.
Fast-forward through the life events of several decades and relocation to a small town. Pause. I am back in church. Why?
Not because church is woven into the social fabric of small-town life, or because there is an expectation on anyone’s part. My first step toward church was in search of spiritual renewal. I sought a place for inspiration and a style of worship that spoke to me, and I found such a place.
My transitional life-stage needed inspirational input, and the weekly hour in a lovely little chapel became my Sunday “happy hour.” I decided to become more than a Sunday pew-sitter, and responded to a call for volunteers to help with a children’s program. I answered more calls, and became part of a church family. It’s a good thing…mostly.
Sometimes, we behave as a dysfunctional family. As with all relationships, we have conflicts and disputes. During difficult and frustrating times, it is tempting to walk away without looking back. I’ve stayed, because when the church system works well, it can evoke the best in us. When we are focused on our mission, we make a difference in the world. If we could learn to love our neighbor as our self, we could change the world.
We may differ on theological points, but when we come together to serve others, we are united in the spirit of service. When we act in unison as responsible stewards of the earth, we are united in a community of divine stewardship. When our communal acts of kindness speak louder than our words and intentions, we act in grace. When Christian fellowship is vital and strong, mercy and grace are contagious.
Why church? Because it can inspire us to become our best selves, and our best selves can change the world.