Reflections on chapter 9 of the book Faithful Questions …
I should start off by stating that church is relatively new to me. Due to a mixture of location and other factors, I did not regularly attend Sunday services until the fall of 2014, when I joined EPIC. Having never been to church aside from the occasional wedding or Christmas service, I never really got that overexposure to church as a child that often drives people away in adulthood. I was well aware of the pop culture notion of Church as almost a “social chore,” a place where people went every Sunday, not necessarily because they wanted to, but because that’s what they did on Sundays.
It’s a very touchy subject, I’ve noticed: whether going to church truly makes you a Christian. I’ve heard the excuse, “Going to church makes you religious in the sense that sitting in your garage makes you a car.” Also, of course, there is an increasing number of Americans who identify as “spiritual, but not religious” … who don’t claim to attend any organized religious service, but who also don’t consider themselves agnostic or atheist. The idea of “spiritual but not religious,” however, seems like an entirely different topic, but I think it is still rooted in church attendance (or more specifically lack thereof). Currently, around 80 percent of Americans identify as Christian. However, around 40 percent or fewer actually attend church on a regular basis. Now, of course this is a huge issue. There are numerous reasons why someone would be unable to attend church, but the bigger question is why people are choosing not to attend church.
Church is the critical factor that has allowed my faith to develop. In the past there would be times where I would attempt to explore my faith, and I would attempt to read the Bible, or pray the Daily Office. I tried this two or three times in my teenage years, and each time I gave up in the end because I found I was unable to do this on my own. I had too many questions … not to mention, it felt odd doing this all by myself.
By the time I began to attend St. Paul’s, I was fairly familiar with The Book of Common Prayer, and I wasn’t surprised by anything that happened during the service. I knew there would be an introductory hymn, and then a reading from the Old Testament, the New Testament, one of the Gospels, a Sermon, and then Eucharist. Keeping with the car metaphors, I find that this is comparable to reading the driver’s manual versus sitting behind the wheel of a car and driving it.
Going to church was suddenly a “got it” moment for me. I knew why people went to church right away. I suddenly got what people meant by calling church The Body of Christ. Only then, in a room full of people who shared my faith, even if we disagreed on certain aspects, did everything really click into to place. I’m sure there are some people who are able to discover their faith independent of a church, but for me it was church that led to me discovering my faith.