I never thought I’d be one to say that I actually enjoy going to church. Seriously, I remember specifically saying in grade six that I would not be the one to take my future children to church because I found it to be extremely boring.
Well, I was only 11 and I’ve grown up a bit since (not much, but some) and I believe it is a necessity. Now, I’ve had this conversation with a few people about whether or not it’s important to go to church and many times I hear that it isn’t necessary, that the church is a corrupt organization that has lost the true roots of what being a Christian is. I don’t discount this view because I do think there are a lot of things within the church that need to be improved or clarified. But if we say the church is corrupt, we need to know what we mean by the word ‘church.’
I think many people consider ‘church’ to be either A) the building in which people go to worship on Sunday, nothing more. Just a building; or B) a group of pious figureheads that tell the rest of us what to do. Well, maybe when I was a kid, I had the “A” view (I’m not getting into the “B” view today). Church was something to do once a week on Sunday. Now, though, I believe church to be much more than that. Church is all of us; it’s community, it’s relationships with those around us that share the same beliefs, and those that don’t. It’s the way we interact with our environment, the stories we share, the experiences we have. It’s all around us. It’s all-consuming. It’s a lifestyle. And, boy, is it tough.
I never realized how hard it is to believe in something, especially something that isn’t popular. But the more I delve into this world of faith, of religion, whatever you want to call it, the more I struggle, the more frustrated I get, the more excited I am about the possibilities. As a result, I’ve been doing a lot of searching and learning, trying to understand more about my faith, putting myself in situations where I can learn as much as I can (without going to the nunnery, as Shakespeare would have it). And here is what I’ve learned so far:
It is important to cultivate your own way of connecting with God. I don’t think I ever really had a personal relationship with Jesus, and I’m still struggling with this concept, but I’m trying to open myself up and listen to what He might be saying. I’ve heard many times from countless speakers that we are very quick to ask for guidance and help, but rarely do we listen to the answer that might be just around the corner. Probably we’re mostly afraid that we actually will hear some booming voice and that it will say exactly what we don’t want to hear. Recently, however, I’ve tried to allow myself to be honest with God and so have taken to just shouting at Him in my car when something’s really bugging me. It usually sounds like, ” Seriously? What the f*** was that?! Are you kidding me, God?!” Yup… and after a bit of shouting, I usually quiet down and some sort of answer comes from the depths of my soul, usually something I don’t want to face but know to be true. It’s really hard to explain. Maybe if you’ve ever taken drama you’d have some semblance of what I’m talking about. My point is, I feel like the personal relationship may be growing. It’s not true love yet, but I’m liking where this is going, for the most part anyway.
Now, here is the really important part: while I do think that having a personal relationship with God is important, and while I do believe church is all around us, I do still think that “going to church”, as in the building, to go to celebrate, worship, whatever you want to call it, is still an important part of spirituality. This is where several of my peers disagree with me, but I’ll explain why I think this way now and I’ll use a story to illustrate.
I was sitting in church today and I was feeling agitated from yesterday’s events, but after a while the music kind of soothed the aches I was feeling and I randomly asked myself the question, “Why is going to church (the building) on Sunday important” and all of a sudden I had my answer: because it’s always there. No matter what happens during my week, whatever challenges I may face, however different each day is, I can come to church on Sunday and just be there for that hour or so and be healed. And I think why this is so powerful is because it isn’t just me that’s there (or so I hope); there are many people inside the building, all contributing to the celebration, whether by actively participating or just sitting quietly. All those bodies contribute to this overall energy that is palpable and moving. It’s the same kind of thing that happens in a theatre or at a sports arena. No matter whether you’re quietly watching a play or screaming your head off at your team to win the game, the energy is still there. It’s what makes the event.
That’s why going to church is necessary. Not only do we need to have a personal relationship with God, but we need to be able to share in that faith community, in that energy at liturgy or mass because church is energy. Just like the live event is better than the one on TV, so we want to grasp the live connection through other people’s energies when we go to church.
I think I’m done for now.