I talked with a friend a few years ago about her church. She belonged to an evangelical church and spoke with warmth and fondness about all the church activities she loved as a teenager. But to my surprise, she no longer went. I was surprised. She and her husband had three children including a set of twins, and I asked her if she thought her children might appreciate experiences similar to the ones she had as a youth. She didn’t really have an answer for me except that they had bought a cabin, and they liked to spend their weekends there.
Many church leaders complain about waning church attendance, but I don’t understand it. Why are people not going? Is it the increase in secularism? The increase in our nation’s wealth? It is our distracting recreational pursuits?
The thing is I need church. How do people go without it? I feel so weak. It’s so easy to feel isolated, discouraged, overwhelmed, and yet church strengthens me. I feel cared about there. I know I have a purpose. I know that all my challenges in life are meant to make me stronger. I feel loved, and I really need that in my life.
My concern with this decline in church attendance is that we are becoming less connected. When we lived in California, I was surprised at how little we knew our neighbors. We tried to reach out and had a little success, but mostly the neighbors seemed pretty wrapped up in their own lives. They also didn’t seem to know each other very well either.
Now we live in a religious community. We see each other at church. We know when someone has broken his back or someone is dealing with a rare debilitating disease, and we are are asked to pray for them.
In fact, I wonder if religious people, even if they go to different churches might be closer than people that don’t go to church. I am Mormon, and my neighbors are very involved with their non-denominational church. Yet, my neighbor is so good to reach out to me, to talk to me in the street, and when I knock on her door, she always welcomes me in her home. She has served so many people in her own church and even though I’m not a member of her congregation, I sense her interest in me and my family and her desire to serve me too.
I feel bad that church goers are so maligned in movies and television shows. Often people that go to church are seen as judgmental and narrow minded. I have seen very very little of that. What I find is that church broadens us as we are made more aware of other people’s challenges and needs. I’ll go on Sunday, caught up in my own problems, and then our bishop will ask us to pray for a young father who has a very aggressive and life threatening cancer, and I feel humbled.
Last Saturday night, as I was sitting in a meeting, I started writing down some of the ways I had been supported and served in church. To clarify in the Mormon church we call all the women sisters and all the men brothers.
Denise teaches a Zumba class three times a week at our church. She does it free of charge. There are little kids running all over the place. I LOVE being with the other women there. I feel their strength and their love and their energy. I always leave the class feeling happier and stronger.
We had just moved to Irvine, California, and I hardly knew anyone at our church yet. But they still threw a big baby shower for me. They had the best strawberry pie there.
Sunny came up to me and gave me a big hug on a day I really needed it.
Our son was at the ER after he had ingested peanut butter. Our bishop came over to the ER on a weekend night to comfort us. Brother Simmons in our ward came too, and they gave my son a blessing.
After having my third baby, a sister from Georgia brought up the best deep fried chicken and mashed potatoes I had ever eaten.
This same sister from Georgia got up at our Christmas party and sang the most beautiful version of “O Holy Night” I have ever heard. She had the voice of an angel.
I was really struggling with nursing. A sister from our church came and stayed with me for a long time to help me.
We lost a precious baby blanket. A sister made us another one and gave it to my son as a gift.
When my husband was serving in the bishopric and had to sit on the stand, a dear sister always saved us a seat at church and brought little books and activities to keep my younger children happy.
When we had to move and didn’t have a moving company, a dozen men from our church came to help us load up and then a dozen men also came to help us unload. One man stayed until the bitter end, helping us move our garden boxes. He gave us most of his Saturday.
At a time in my life where I was struggling, a man got up in church and told us that he knew that Jesus Christ lived. lived. He barely spoke English, but I knew that what he said was true.
A sister came to my house one night and said, “I just felt like I needed to bring you dinner tonight,” and then she dropped it off. I had a one month old baby and was struggling through law school. Yes, you could say I needed dinner that night.
A friend of mine who will be baptized into our church next month said, “I just feel so much support.” I couldn’t have said it better myself.
What is your church like?
How do you guys serve each other?
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