TO BE–Long to a Faith Community OR NOT TO BE–Long to a Faith Community:
That Is the Question!
By Deborah Church Worley
And no, I do not have the answer!
I know there are a lot of classic reasons to not go to church, to not belong to a faith community–church-goers/people of faith (Christians, in particular, it seems) are perceived and/or experienced as hypocrites and judgmental….Sunday is the only morning families have to sleep in and/or hang out together….the sermons are too long and/or boring and/or irrelevant….the music is outdated and/or boring and/or irrelevant….faith in God is for the unthinking and/or unintelligent, for people who need a crutch to get through life….etc., etc., etc.
In asking friends and relatives for additional suggestions regarding reasons to not go to church, I learned of more–for example: “when being there is toxic to spirit and soul” [due to theology, priorities, hypocrisy]….“When you feel lonely, isolated, and uncared for in spite of attempting to reach out to others”….“When the God that is followed there is too small”…. “Too conservative and not gay-friendly or too ‘free-spirited’ [and no structure]”…. “Not wanting to finance an institution that does things I don’t support”… “lack of respect for diverse opinions or views”… “lack of support or insight into real-life issues”… “hijacking of church by extreme conservatives on abortion, marriage equality”…and more!
Certainly many valid reasons. Many certainly valid reasons. There is no doubt that a strong case can be made for not going to church, for not belonging to a community of faith.
Can an equally strong case be made to go to church in these times? Are there equally valid reasons to belong to a faith community in today’s society? Simply going to church because it’s what you did growing up isn’t always (ever?) enough; going to church just because it’s what you’re supposed to do on Sunday morning doesn’t hold much water any more. In the face of so many and such compelling reasons not to, can a case be made, today, to be a person of faith, who belongs to a community of faith?
I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately, and the answers have not come quickly or easily.
Which may be surprising, given that I am an ordained Minister in the United Church of Christ! Not to mention a “cradle Methodist,” having grown up attending a United Methodist Church with my family, having sought out and attended a Methodist church when I was an exchange student for a year in Brazil, and having attended a United Methodist seminary (Go Boston University School of Theology!). I also spent two years as a United Methodist young adult missionary at the United Methodist-related McCurdy School in Espanola, NM, and later served as a part-time pastor at a lovely little adobe United Methodist mission church in El Rito, NM, while also serving as the Chaplain at the aforementioned McCurdy School, having returned after seminary! Did I mention that I am a “cradle Methodist”???
And so I figure that if even I, former lifelong church attendee/missionary/seminary student/chaplain/youth pastor/ordained minister, can have doubts about–or at least be seriously asking myself and others–what are the reasons to go to church, to belong to a faith community, there might be others who are, too.
I will offer several reflections, therefore, as part, hopefully, of what is already an ongoing, genuine conversation and, yes, the struggle surrounding the question:
“TO BE-long to a Faith Community OR NOT TO BE-long to a Faith Community?”
Stay tuned! 🙂