“Together in the Presence of Almighty God”
Why do you go to church?
Not in a grand, theological sense. No, I mean: when the alarm goes off on Sunday morning, what makes you get out of bed and head to St. John’s?
I’m sure the answer varies, not just from person to person but from day to day. I know for me, some days I show up out of genuine eagerness and other days mostly because I’m signed up to serve in the liturgy. Maybe for you the reason is the beautiful music made by Richard and our choir, or maybe it’s because you heard there would be a particularly tasty snack at coffee hour. We show up for a whole host of reasons.
But there is always a reason. In a society that no longer treats church attendance as a given, showing up to church is a choice. Even for those of us who have a well-ingrained habit of churchgoing, there are myriad other activities vying for our attention on Sunday mornings: family outings, sporting events, brunches with friends, leisurely mornings at home. And yet we choose to walk through the doors of 60 Kent Street to worship together.
What about when those doors are closed, though? This pandemic is not only forcing us to examine and adapt the way we worship. The stripping away of physical community invites us to pause and reflect on the essentials, to examine our habits and motivations, and to perhaps emerge with a new appreciation of what this whole church thing is all about.
So I’d invite you, as we hold community through livestreams and Zoom calls, to pause and think about what drives your participation in the life of the church. Ask yourself—without judgment—“what do I miss most about St. John’s?”
The answers don’t need to be “right” or “wrong.” Yes, the Church gathers primarily to praise God, to ask his healing, and to be nourished Word and Sacraments. But this Divine Service isn’t (and I think shouldn’t be) the only reason we gather. Let this time apart be an opportunity to notice—notice what makes you long to gather back within the walls of St. John’s, what part of our regular parish life you’re most excited to return to. Is it the social community? Is it the Sacraments? Is the it the challenge to serve God in the world?
The Church is called to grow, as we invite the world into the healing God provides through the Body of Christ. But in order to invite others into the wholeness we find in the Church, we’re first challenged to understand why we keep going back ourselves. An invitation is much more meaningful when you know why you’re inviting the person.
So over the next weeks and months, I’d invite you to ponder this. Why do we “come together in the presence of Almighty God” (Book of Common Prayer, p. 79)? Why do you come? And why would you invite others to come?