I know I’m different from most people in that I hate missing a Sunday morning service. A quick Google search tells me that only 38% of Americans go to church regularly, and, since there are people who feel at least some guilt regarding church (shocking, I know!), we can safely assume that a few of those people might have exaggerated their attendance in a phone interview with a stranger.
I have been going to church regularly since I was a child. In fact, I can’t really remember a time during which I didn’t go. I can remember times that I didn’t particularly like going. Yes, I can remember those times.
The routine of going to a Sunday morning service is probably at least part of the reason I enjoy going so much. On my way there (which, right now, is a 20-minute drive), I often think about the segment of the population for whom church is not a part of their Sunday routines. I wonder what these people do with their extra time. I imagine them washing their cars and playing catch in the yard, but this is idealistic—a “grass is always greener” type of thing. If I had the extra time, I would probably just be watching The Vampire Diaries or checking Facebook more.
I certainly don’t judge people who don’t go to church. You know me: I’ll admit when I internally judge someone for something. Like if they haven’t read The Great Gatsby. Or even worse, if they didn’t like The Great Gatsby. But I get that people have complex histories with faith, that some people don’t claim faith at all, and that some people have just been to some really terrible churches. All of these reasons have valdity to them, and I would much rather have a good long discussion (with someone like you) about the “whys” of the matter than go door-to-door trying to coerce people into church attendance. (On a related but also random note, I totally remember harassing the poor Jehovah’s Witness boys who would come to our house. My brother and I would talk in old lady voices through the door. We fooled… wait, let me count… no one.)
I do think people who don’t go are missing out, though, because when church is done right, it’s basically like hanging out with your friends. Actually, it’s way more than that. It is life-giving in that you feel a sense of unity with a particular people. Acceptance. Grace. Goodness. And what you’re all unified in doing is what the Christian community calls “worship.” This part is, perhaps, the most difficult part to put into words. The only thing I can think to say is that, in the few churches where I felt this unity most, moving on to a different place was difficult. When we made the move from California to Kansas City, for instance, saying goodbye to our little church of 25 people or so was one of the most difficult days. They had become a part of us: even the crazy lady who played the piano and sometimes chimed in with that pastor during the sermon a la Paul Schaeffer and David Letterman.
So it was good to be with our church family again this Sunday. And I don’t use the phrase “family” lightly. They bring us casseroles when we have babies, they sing awkwardly off-key, they hook us up with hand-me-down kids’ clothes, they sometimes dip their fingers into the communion juice.