A good question: Why go to church?
One question, four answers
‘We might bump into God’
Here’s a bunch of reasons. Because we’re looking for a framework to live in, a place that represents beliefs, values and habits of the heart that make some kind of sense of a madly spinning world where we’re wondering if the centre can hold.
Because it’s a place of moral seriousness in a trivialised culture that reduces most things to a form of entertainment and where truth and facts are losing their value. What we don’t like has become ‘fake news’, and that’s a dead end.
Because Carl Jung said the main task of the second half of life (whether that starts at 25 or 50) is to find a spiritual interpretation of life, and a church is a pretty good place to start addressing that task.
Because there’s a saint or two to be found there, and saints are exciting. It’s good to get an idea of what a human being is meant to be, particularly when we’re only a shadow of our future selves.
Because churches make an honest attempt at community in a culture that’s forgotten how to do it. Churches have been doing it (and, yes, sometimes messing it up) for 2,000 years. We have a track record. …
John Pritchard is Assistant Bishop in the Anglican Diocese of Durham
‘You are forced to look outside of your own needs’
You get free coffee or tea. Some Sundays you’ll have homemade cake, or shop-bought. There are always biscuits.
Depending on the style of Christian church, you get to share your germs with everyone as you drink from a shared cup of real wine, or you might drink some sort of weird undiluted grape juice from teeny tiny shot glasses.
Church is one of the few places you get to sing aloud with lots of other people. You get to say ‘Peace be with you’ to friends, acquaintances and total strangers. It’s one of the few places where you are invited to shut your eyes, shut your mouth, and listen for God. It’s one of the few places where you can still hear someone speaking for longer than ten minutes without ad breaks or animated montages and, unlike a long political speech, you might get a glimpse into the speaker’s soul, your own and that of God.
Churches are full of old things that nobody wants anymore but thought it would be good to donate, or new things that people think are useful but no one knows how to use. They are uncomfortably furnished. They are loud and quiet. They hold the attention of those whose hearts are hurting and those who feel they want to do good and help others.
There are people there for tradition, and there are people who can’t stop going but couldn’t tell you why. If you are lucky they are filled with a mix of generations. They are a place of awkward first
Commitment-Phobe is a Reform columnist
‘When I became a mother it dawned on me’
In my youth, I had no choice. I am the child of Jamaican parents, raised in an age when going to church was non-negotiable. Once old enough to exercise control over my Sundays, I drifted and eventually dropped out of church attendance. Surely, I thought, the important thing was what you believe and how you live, not whether you show your face each week. I could read the Bible at home, spend time in reflection and prayer on my own … but I did none of these things effectively. In reality, I got caught up in the business of life. I checked in with God in the mornings and at night. Beyond that, God mainly became peripheral to my life.
It was when I became a mother myself that the importance of church dawned on me. The world holds all kinds of powerful attractions, each vying for attention. Many appear glossy and desirable; some are incredibly destructive – physically, mentally or spiritually. I wanted to use everything at my disposal to equip my daughter to choose well. Attending church gave her a grounding in faith, to be accepted or rejected at a later time, but also immersed her in an environment and a community which reinforced the positive values I was seeking to instil at home. Going to church was important! …
Karen Campbell is a church related community worker in Luton
‘That’s a great reason to go to church – belonging’
I sometimes ask myself this very question when I’m physically sat in one. Why indeed; why do I bother? But then it doesn’t take me long to figure out that actually that’s not the right question to be asking if I’m bored of the weekly Sunday morning service. Because Sunday morning is not the only time church exists, it exists day in day out. It’s living here among us, whether you like it or not!
So ‘going to church’ can’t be defined in any single way. There are many ways to go to church, and for some people the Sunday morning sense of going to church is not a good one. ‘Why belong to church?’ is a very good question indeed. That doesn’t mean I’m not going to answer the title question, I will, I promise! But it is belonging to a church, or to the Church, which is critical. Belonging to church has provided a shelter, a space, a safe place for growing to me, and many others over the years. So, that’s a great reason to go to church – belonging.
There is a cliche that says: ‘The church isn’t the building, it’s the people.’ But, I think there are crucial ways in which a church is the building. The ‘people’ that make the church are often seen as the weekly attendance on a Sunday, but the building itself can be a hub for the community, a warm place for homeless people to come and get a cup of tea, a foodbank, a meeting place for local groups, and much more. THAT’S how I imagine church! …
Dan Morrell is the Moderator of the United Reformed Church Youth Assembly
This article was published in the May 2017 edition of Reform