High River United Church of High River, Alberta


Why Bother with Church?

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Why would I bother going to church?

I asked the youth this question one Sunday, and their response was the best reason of all:

      It feels safe here. I am not judged. I am loved. I’m not bullied or teased. I can be me.


My heart sang as I heard this response.  It is exactly what I want the experience of church to be for anyone who comes through the doors.  It is what I believe it means to live the Way of Jesus: to create caring, respectful, loving space, in which all are welcomed to be just who they are, to share their gifts and talents, to explore their faith, to find healing and hope.


The church is a community of people who gather together around a common belief in God.  For Christians, that common belief involves working together to follow the Way of Jesus.


Through the centuries the church has been many things. Mostly it has been the heart and soul of communities, the central gathering place for people, the place where people share their times of joy, such as celebrating marriages or the birth of a baby in baptisms, and their times of sorrow, such as in funerals for loved ones.  For most of the last 2,000 years, Sunday was held as a day set apart for gathering as a church community to worship God and to nurture one’s faith.  In many smaller communities, the church has served as a community centre, with all sorts of activities to engage all ages, taking place throughout the week.


The church has been the best place for newcomers to go to meet others in the community.  The church has been a gathering place for extended family, a multi-generational place where all ages interact and learn from each other.  It has been the first place, and usually a safe supportive place, for children and youth to share their talents, to practice speaking in public, and to develop musical skills. 


The church has been a place to combat loneliness and to promote connections in a community.  If one is alone, in need, ill, grieving, searching, the church has been a place that one can come and find support, without having to pay money or worry about judgement.


Of course, I am describing the church at its best.  Many have stories of the pain caused, the judgement experienced, & the abuse that has happened within churches.  My heart breaks when I hear those stories. Those actions were wrong. They were not what church should be. They were not what Jesus taught or God’s spirit would inspire. I grieve the pain caused.


Church is meant to be the safe, supportive, respectful place that the youth described to me. But you might have noticed that I used “has been” as the verb tense in much of what I described.  We are at a point where we must decide the role church will play in our own lives and our communities.  Church will not just always be there unless we show up and step up to make it so.


So, why would I choose church over other activities and possibilities, for myself & my children?


- I believe that faith in God is essential to who I am, and essential to share with my children. I believe that following the Way of Jesus shapes my life in wonderful and amazing ways, and that I need a supportive community of faith around me so that I can live my faith. I can’t do it alone. I’m not meant to do it alone.


-I love that the church is about all ages worshipping and working together.  When I became a parent and started registering my children in various activities, it always bothered me that they were grouped in such narrow age categories – 5-6 year olds, 9-10 year olds.  This is not healthy for our children.  It is why there is so much more bullying.  Healthy community means having the wisdom of elders, older kids who are inspired to care for younger kids, little kids giving hugs to the seniors.  I love that church offers this multi-generational way of living together.


-It is important to me that church is not about competition and achievement.  Too much in our society is built on getting ahead, meeting set standards, and achieving certain results. The list is long of what we should have, do and be in order to be judged successful.  I love that at church, as the youth said, we can just be ourselves, with smiles and with tears.  I know judgement happens, but we work to make this a non-judgemental, welcoming community.  And mostly, that is what we are, a place just to be yourself and be accepted for yourself.


-It is a place that seeks justice, offers hope and healing, and stands up for human dignity for everyone.  Our faith in God through Jesus calls us to this mission of loving neighbour, stranger and even those we consider enemies. It is challenging. It requires an investment of my resources, but I gladly tithe (give 10%) of my family income because I believe in this work.  There is no other organization that offers quite the same opportunities for us just to be there for those in need – the mother who comes in off the street asking if there is a place to change her child’s diaper, the young man with mental health issues that is wandering the streets but finds a safe haven for just a few hours in our building, the family in grief and shock who comes and is enfolded in our care…..the list could go on.  Because we invest together in this enterprise called church, we are there for people who turn to us for support and comfort, when they may have nowhere else to go and no resources to seek other help.


I love arriving on a Sunday morning and being greeted by those arriving for church.  A smile fills my face as I celebrate that each person has chosen to be in this place, so that together we can centre our hearts around God, and challenge ourselves to live the Way that Jesus taught. We are committed to each other.  We show up and step up to create this caring, loving community of faith – a church. It takes all of us supporting one another. It is so very amazing!


However, whether the church continues will be up to us.  There are so many other activities and responsibilities calling us in so many directions.  It is hard to make coming to church and being part of a church community a clear commitment in our lives.  Others, who don’t understand our need to be part of this church community, make demands on our lives. 


But I believe that church is worth bothering about, for the very reasons the youth said:


It feels safe here. I am not judged. I am loved. I’m not bullied or teased. I can be me. I am supported in offering my gifts and talents.  Here I am enfolded in the love of God as witnessed to by a group of faithful, committed followers of the Way of Jesus. 


I choose to attend church.

Thanks be to God!

February 8, 2018                                 ©Susan Lukey 2018

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