Why I Finally Joined a Church
The title is from a Salon.com article of the same name by Jane Roper in which she answers Why I Finally Joined a Church? Roper grew up as a part of a Congregational Church and her husband's mother was Jewish and father Episcopalian, but both functionally secular. She turned away from the church and other organizations in her 20s. In the article she describes how her kids made her join anew, this time a Unitarian Universalist Church:
Our twin daughters are only 3. Currently, their Big Questions are mostly along the lines of "Where is my Cookie Monster doll?" and "Why can't I have more raisins?"She goes on to write,
But it won't be long before they'll start asking what happens to people after they die, and why so many bad things happen in the world, and whether or not there's a God. There will be other, less metaphysical religious questions we'll need to answer. Like: Who is that lady in the blue dress standing in the clamshell in our neighbor's yard? And can we get one?
I want my children to see that a group of people can work together, give of their time and talents, and support each other through life's joys and sorrows not because they're family or even necessarily friends, but because they believe that it's an important part of being human.Those of us who spend out lives in church don't see this perspective enough, that of someone whose life has not revolved around the church's schedule. Christian churches struggle to compete in a secular society and I think part of that problem is that we fall into line and try to compete. But we do not have something to serve you needs alongside other things to serve your needs. Christianity really wants to give you needs you never knew you had, like the need to love God and love you neighbor as yourself. In this, we do not offer a product to be consumed, but a God to be known and loved and a changed way of seeing all creation.
I also want to expose them to good, old-fashioned community in a world where, increasingly, community happens only in virtual spaces....I want to make damned sure they understand kindness, empathy and respect for other people. Of course, joining a religious community isn't the only way to do this. But it's a way to practice and think about these values on a regular basis, with intention. Lord knows I could use the practice, too.
To be honest, I am strongly Trinitarian and am not exactly pleased as punch that the church she found is UU, which in its very name drops Trinitarian language. It's odd that I have that reaction as I am pleased that my nephews in Tennessee are part of a UU congregation where they live. It is a way to bring spiritual questions into your life and I am glad they have that community.
All that aside, Roper's story shows us the longing for what a church offers in someone who was, in her own words, one for whom joining a church was, for a long while, unthinkable? The answer is simple and not easy. Those of us who know and love our congregations and the difference they make in our lives must tell our friends about it. Just like we easily suggest a restaurant or a movie, we need to suggest our congregation. Don't varnish over the fact that Christian community can be messy, but let them know why it is worth your time and energy to be in church on Sunday. But the goal is not more church members, but more people finding a place and a people with whom to discover needs they never knew they had.
That's my take. What do you think?
The Rev. Frank Logue, E-vangelist