Sunday, October 6, 2013

Going to Church, Not Going to Church

I didn't go to church this morning.  It was raining heavily, and I didn't want to walk to church in the rain.  I called one lady who goes to my church and asked if she could give me a ride, and she said that she wasn't going to church, either!  I could have made a couple of more phone calls in looking for a ride, but I didn't want to bother or inconvenience anybody.  Plus, I'm rather shy.

Did I miss anything?  Well, I like going to church because it is a change of pace.  It is an opportunity for me to get out of the house, to listen to music, to hear a thoughtful sermon, and to greet and be greeted.  There have been times when I have wanted to sleep in.  In the case of this morning, a part of me wanted to snuggle up with a book while it was raining outside, and perhaps even to take a nap.  But, as the day goes on, I wish that I had gone to church this morning.

There was a time when missing church did not particularly bother me.  This was when I was an undergraduate in college.  Back then, I wasn't an all-or-nothing type of guy.  I realized that I could miss a service, or two, or three, or more, and that didn't mean that I'd be thoroughly retreating into my shell, dropping out of the church, or ditching Christianity altogether, for I could still go back after months of being away.  One reason that there were spans in which I did not go to church was that I was simply too tired on Saturday mornings.  (It was a Seventh-Day Adventist church.)  But, because I was an undergraduate and it wasn't that far back when I had lived at home, my family's practice when it came to church was still a significant part of me.  My family would go to church occasionally: we would be weeks away, and then we would decide to attend a service.

When I went to Harvard Divinity School, I went to church every week.  I had a variety of motivations for this.  For one, as a conservative evangelical at the time, I regarded Harvard Divinity School as a godless place----an excellent school, with some professors who were serious about their Christian or Jewish faith, but a godless place.  I figured that I needed to go to church to find spiritual support.  Moreover, that was the first time that I was truly away from home.  My undergraduate school was a brief drive away from where I grew up, and I could go home any weekend.  In Boston, I could not do that.  My church was my family away from home. 

As I look back, it is amazing that I went to church every week in those days.  (Or, actually, I was there the vast majority of weeks.  I skipped church to hear Alan Keyes and Richard John Neuhaus when they spoke at Harvard Law School.)  I had a busy schedule in those days.  Why didn't I just sleep in, as I did as an undergraduate for many weeks?  Well, I was more committed to religion when I was at HDS.  I could also say that, even on Saturday mornings when I was going to church, I technically was sleeping in.  Ordinarily, I got up at 5 or 6 to go through my Hebrew flashcards or to study for tests, so getting up at 8:30 to go to church was sleeping in for me.  Yet, as an undergraduate, I got up early during the week to study or do my reading, and I didn't go to church every week in those days.  What made my HDS days so different?

When I lived in New York City, I got to the point where I was going to church every week.  There were a couple of months when I was not going to church, and I felt lost in those days.  I just felt there was a hole in my weekends!  I got to the point where I was attending a liberal Adventist church on Saturdays, and Redeemer Presbyterian Church on Sundays.  I liked going to church on Saturday morning and coming home for a nice Sabbath nap, or going to church on Sunday morning and getting a hot dog or an egg-and-salami sandwich after church.

When I lived in Cincinnati, there was a vast stretch of time when I did not go to church.  There were a variety of reasons for this.  For one, Tim Keller (the preacher at Redeemer, in New York City) was a tough act to follow!  I also did not want to go through the tedium of church shopping, and I avoided mainline Protestant churches, since I didn't consider them biblical enough.  I was enjoying my weekly quiet times through Scripture at home, so part of me felt that I didn't need church.  But a part of me wanted to be a part of a church community, for I felt that I was missing something by not being in one.  Eventually, I got into the routine of attending Latin mass, and also a couple of spiritual fellowship groups.

Where I live now, I have gone to church every week, with a couple of exceptions, this week being one of them.  But I'll be going to Bible study this coming Thursday, so that will be good. 

No comments:

Post a Comment

Search This Blog