All Saints Messenger - August 22, 2013

posted Aug 26, 2013, 11:36 AM by Church Secretary

Greetings in the name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

 

As a priest who engages believers, doubters, non-believers and those frustrated with Christianity and the church, I am often asked to give a response to questions and inquiries like "Why do I need to go to church?' or "Do we really need Church anymore?"  These are good questions and my guess is that many of us, have at one time or another, asked ourselves the same question.  I am always fine tuning, altering, and pondering my responses.  I am also always in search for other opinions and thoughts on the topic.

 

There are many better thinkers and writers out in the world and I often find an article that really "catches" my understanding.  A few weeks ago I came upon an article by Tara Woodward Lehman, a Presbyterian minister and Chaplain at Princeton University.  What follows are many of her thoughts and words as well as some paraphrasing by yours truly.  Enjoy!

 

Many of the people I encounter begin with, "I mean, I get why you're into 'being spiritual' and 'helping people' and everything, but why bother with Church? I just don't get that part. Do you really think you need it?"

 

This person often goes on to describe how irrelevant the Church is. In their view, all the Church once provided can be found elsewhere in civic life. From community service projects to book clubs; from outreach to the poor to potlucks; from meditation groups to support groups, they describe the many other places that provide much of what the Church used to (and occasionally still does) provide.

I listen intently and have often concluded? That they are correct, at least in part, right. If the Church is only what they describe (a sort of glorified community center or service provider), it is a wonder anyone shows up.

I began to seriously ask myself, do I really need Church?  Why don't I just hit the bagel shop, take another hike in the woods, buy some more concert tickets to my favorite jazz artist (you know, for a little transcendence) and volunteer at a soup kitchen every once in awhile? Why bother with Church at all? 

After giving it much consideration, I've decided that there is at least one very good reason why I need Church: I have a really bad memory.

 

It's true. I have a terrible memory. Especially when it comes to remembering who I am as a child of God. Especially when it comes to remembering what God has done, and continues to do, in and through Jesus Christ.

 

I forget who I am. I forget who God is. I forget God's Epic Story of Redemption and Liberation and Renewal and Beauty and Hope. I forget. A lot.

 

And another thing, there are a gazillion other demands and voices that are vying for my attention all the time.

 

So I admit it. I get tired. And I get distracted. And more often than not, I forget. 

I need Church, because Church reminds me of everything that's important.  And when I say Church, I'm not talking about a building. I mean the people. I'm referring to the organic, collective, flesh and blood Body of Christ...You, all of us! I'm talking about the beautiful but undeniably imperfect community of people who help me remember who I am, and to Whom I belong, over and over again.

 

Please don't get me wrong.  I still love piping hot Sunday morning bagels. Preferably with garlic cream cheese. But more than that, I need to be fed by the Bread of Life. I still take hikes in the woods and listen to jazz and I'm enormously grateful for their presence in my life. But it's no replacement for hearing God's Story, read and proclaimed, week after week.

 

I absolutely love the intricacies of the notes and the raw emotion of a good jazz artist. For me, it really can be a transcendent experience. But I still love to sing those old Anglican hymns of the Church that have sustained followers of Jesus for generations.

 

I'll be the first to say I discover God's Spirit working in and through the wonders of creation. But I still need to worship our Creator and be reminded that all good things come from God.

 

So, do I need Church? You better believe it. I need Church for many reasons, but mostly because I have a really bad memory. If you do as well, I hope to see you this Sunday morning. We'll even treat you to wonderful edible delights after the service.

 

Blessings & Peace,

Fr. Gary+

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