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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.