This morning I sat outside and listened to the birds sing and watched the squirrels scamper down the street. Afterwards I settled in for my morning readings. I wrote five things I was grateful for in my gratitude journal. I then turned to my Meditations for Women Who Do Too Much by Anne Wilson Schaef. Next up was the next chapter in Opening Windows written by many Christian authors. Today was Chapter Eleven by John Guest. The title…Open to Life Changing Prayer.
I am in the time of my life where I seek peace. Drama is high in my house on some days with the life changing memory loss of a family member. Each day is different but what I have come to realize is the day is easier depending on my reaction to events. That’s where God and prayer help me. Taking the time to pray feeds my spirit and calms my brain.
Sunday mornings used to be a “go to church no matter what morning.” Part of that was my Catholic upbringing and it was what I had hoped to instill in my children. You went to church on Sunday morning no matter what. Strange phrase but I heard it constantly growing up. Maybe it’s a Minnesota thing. Leaving church on many Sundays I didn’t always feel peaceful. Church politics and the expectations of some congregation members left me feeling unsettled. There were days I didn’t feel I measured up to the rules of dress, proper protocol and even praying right. It was never the Pastor which made me feel that way and we’ve had many Pastors. It might not even be a true representation of the members. It might possibly just have been me, feeling the way I felt about myself, and blaming it on to the church.
During the pandemic I attended more church services online then I have been to in person in years. I have shared my faith and had faith conversations online, in private bible studies, and in person during this time. I feel the peace of not having to lose that peace because of church politics.
It’s Sunday morning. Soon I will listen online to my church. Our Pastor is leaving. I want to hear her sermon and then I am going to church to the going away shindig. Yes, you heard that right, I am not going to church in person but going to the after party.
One of the reasons I love listening online is there are no distractions during the sermon. There are no distractions with my prayers. I can sing or sit back and listen to the beautiful music. I can open the Bible app on my phone to follow along or look things up without criticism of using my phone during the church service. It also allows me to read various interpretations of the verses during worship. I find peace at home during church.
The argument we hear the most is that we need our church family and we do. I have realized church family doesn’t always mean those people that are in your home church. It can mean those in your Bible Study, your next door neighbors, friends, and yes, even strangers you meet when you share your faith.
We need churches. They are pivotal to our lives. However, does the old form of church still work in 2021? Could the people be the church and the building take second place when it comes to worship priority, expanding church services to other places in the community? Think of the money we spend beautifying our church buildings. What would happen if we put that money into staff and outreach instead, and the building be well kept but not a shrine. A church home should be a comfortable place which feels like home to everyone.
I must admit I have questioned over the years why we can’t always get along and share the outreach with all the congregations in the community. It shouldn’t be a contest as to who has the best church but each church setting the others up to success, even if we believe different doctrine. Don’t we believe in one God? It’s the doctrine and divide over correctness in denominations that divide us. It’s our way or the highway. yet we all have one common denominator and that is our belief in God.
In my old age I have been influenced by my Catholic upbringing, my dad’s EUB and Methodist religion and the religion of my cousins and ancestors which have roots in the Assembly of God church and the Jehovah Witnesses. I also had good friends whose roots were Mormon and I learned from them too. Because of this I have a hard time escribing to what I was brought up with, and that is each church believing their church was the one true church, and the way they worshipped God was the only right way. That might account for my thoughts concluding a church isn’t the building, the way we dress, the way we line up the spoons in the silverware drawer or even the rules for prayer which dominate each denominations church services.
Maybe it’s time we let go of that belief that we have to have the perfect and beautiful building to be our church, to hold our services. Wouldn’t it be great if our buildings were well kept but not so perfect that they welcome strangers, let us be casual, accept us as we are and take that church out in the community, worship services taking many different forms?
I am past the age where I care if people will talk about me because I just showed up at the party but not for the service. I am past the age where I care if people talk about me because they think I’m not doing enough volunteering in church. I have fifty years of volunteering under my belt. It’s time to volunteer to be kind to others, pray with others and feed the birds and be in background volunteering for church things that no one knows about, and that might include just being a friend to someone who needs one.
This week in a backyard in my hometown, sitting with a young mother and watching her kids splash in their kiddie pool, I had a beautiful, spiritual experience. She turned to me and asked if she could pray with me and pray for me. The birds were singing, the kids were splashing, the breeze was blowing through the trees and we prayed, right there in her backyard. I was in church, God’s church of nature. What more could I ask for?
The pandemic may have changed how we view worshipping God. Some need that in church moment. For others they need the peace and quiet of home to hear the word or the. connection of prayer in the most unexpected places such as the streets we walk everyday. Recently I told my Grandchild that God doesn’t live in a building. He’s with us all the time. I hope he remembers that throughout his life.
I’m rambling with thoughts today. Over my lifetime the place where I’ve felt the most judgment from others for things that don’t matter, such as being on tune when you sing or you can’t belong to a choir, fighting over what group is appropriate to use our church for meetings, making sure the floors are spit polished were in the organized church. We weren’t arguing about spiritual subjects such as the Bible or the Ten Commandments but material matters. And at times we were fighting about exclusion of who has the right to worship God with us. Who was welcome.
Perhaps one thing we’ve learned this past year is that things don’t have to be perfect when we worship. We aren’t perfect and we shouldn’t expect others to be.
I long for the day where it doesn’t matter how you dress, how much money you have or the color of your skin to be able to walk into a church and be accepted as who we are, all sinners and all in need of caring, having a place to take a breath without being judged by each other, leaving that to God. He sees us and he is the one who will change what needs to be changed if we have faith. I am guilty in the past for also being part of the problem with my judgment. I hope that is one thing God helps me change in me.
Yes we all need church family. What does that look like in your place of worship?