Sometimes it’s hard to go to church.
I know. It’s a horrible thing to say. Nevertheless it’s true.
There are some Sundays where it’s really difficult to get myself out of bed and drag myself into the shower. As a pregnant woman I don’t find the pews particularly comfortable. My son does not enjoy the company of other children in Sunday School and thus stays up with us. This would be fine if I was was preaching but for some reason when we go to my Dad’s church he does not like entering the sanctuary. He feels we should be able to hang out in Grandpa’s office until it’s all done and that means it’s a struggle for my husband and I. I sometimes miss contemplative music. Also if I’m honest I miss music that I know. As I’ve been busy working up to this point I don’t really know the music at my Dad’s church. I find this hard. I really respond to hymns and music in worship and when I don’t know them, it’s difficult for me.
Sometimes it’s hard but we persist. We continue.
The issue of church attendance and comfort has popped up on my Facebook feed a lot lately. Donald Miller recently wrote a blog about how he doesn’t attend church very often and people are going crazy. Apparently quite a few people I know have very strong feelings about this. It would seem many feel church is a necessity. Some have said that you meet God in the liturgy. Others have shared another follow up post by Geoff Suratt on why he will never leave the church which would often receive comments and statements which affirm people’s comfort and positive worship experiences.
None of what anyone is saying is wrong. It’s all a matter of perspective. I’m thrilled that so many people get so much out of corporate worship and feel a sense of connection with God there. The truth is, for me I don’t always feel that way. With the distractions and lately the discomfort of the pew as I sit there in this awkward pregnant body I don’t get the ‘high’ or the sense of peace and tranquility that so many do. I go for other reasons. I go to be part of a community of believers. I go to lift others up. I go to worship and participate as I am able. I go for my son. I go for a whole host of reasons but truthfully, I really don’t go for myself.
My greatest spiritual awakenings and understandings have most often come in a moment of solitude. My morning prayer with God, the study and readings I do alone often fill me with greater peace and understanding than church does. There are moments and times in worship when I do experience a great sense of wonder and awe but it’s not a constant, consistent thrill for me. I live for quiet moments of faith. I long for God’s whisper in moments scattered throughout my day.
Often when people talk about how important church is and how we all need to carry on the traditions as they have always been I find my mind wandering to the ministry of Jesus. I think of the teaching he did around tables, on hill sides and at the well. I wonder if we should remind ourselves that he made a pretty big stink in the temple and he prayed in gardens alone. There are many ways to meet God. Many worship styles, experiences and learning methods at play. There is no one right way in which to do it and while it might work for you, it won’t work for everyone. I go to church because I want to go. For my son, my family and the community. I go because it’s right for me where I am in life right now. I want to facilitate change. To help create more open, accepting environments. I want to make God accessible to more people, in more ways. I go for many reasons, important reasons but that doesn’t always mean it’s easy.
I think perhaps it would be wise for us as people who worship together to remember how much easier it is to not go. As we seek to be an inclusive church, to create inviting environments perhaps we should look at what we are up against. How the warmth of a cup of coffee, a good book and your pyjamas might be more enticing than heading out the door on a winter morning. How difficult it is for people who do not know the rules and hidden structure of worship to jump in and participate. How hard it might be to focus on a sermon when the last time you sat through a lecture was 10 years ago in school. It doesn’t come easily to everyone and when it does, they are the lucky ones. Maybe if we look at the reasons people don’t go or don’t want to go we will see ways in which we need to change. We may discover areas of improvement and perhaps become the accessible places we want to be. Sometimes it is easier not to go. I guess it’s our job to create a worship experience that is so inviting that people want to go anyways.