I went to Church Today, Oh Boy

It’s been a long time since I last went to church. Many of you who have know me will find that more than a little bit surprising, but I’m not writing to talk about my involvement (or lack thereof) with christian community because today I did, in fact, go to church. I visited the local Chuch of Ireland congregation here in Dunlavin.

Driving into town was odd because frankly, I’ve never seen so many cars parked along the main square. Well it is Easter, so it’s special. Fortunately I was early enough that adding a couple minutes’ walk wasn’t going to make me late. In fact, for my purposes, it made me just on time. The hall was standing-room-only, and I made it in at the back.

It was a very liturgical service, as well. Stand up. Call and response. Sit down. Children’s choir singing some of the choruses I remember from the charismatic movement back in the 70s. Bible reading. Passing the plate (for some reason I could not fathom, this happened twice). Communion. The Lord’s prayer. Blessing and exit.

Prior to my extended absence from Charismatic/Pentecostal/Evangelical circles, I would have viewed this whole exercise as ... well a shell of habit that is mostly empty of meaning for those present. But today I saw it through different eyes. Maybe there’s something useful in that vision, but in any case, I felt like I would write about it.

Because the first thing that struck me was that, whatever their reasons, everyone wanted to be there – well no I lie, it wasn’t the first thing by quite a long shot – what struck me was the energy in the air if you will. As the service progressed, I realized the energy was because of that voluntary offering. At first I thought that is was just me being nervous, but no-one cared or hardly even noticed I was there; and once I settled down a bit, the feeling didn’t go away. We were all connected by our choice to be present, and that is a thing which is truly holy.

And the naked readings of scripture were far more effective than any sermon could have been in such circumstances. Everyone knew why they were there: to remember and celebrate the resurrection of Jesus, son of Joseph and Son of God. And the actual readings, simple testimonies from the Gospels, and Acts of the Apostles, perfectly illustrated the core, irreducible facts of the Christian faith: that there was this man, Jesus, who was brutally and unfairly killed; that he forgave both his accusers and his murderers; and that he rose again from the dead three days later.

I’ll not waste time or space on apologetics concerning these factual events, other than to say that there’s quite a bit of strong evidence for them. My purpose here is not to convince anyone, but just to record how effective such a stripped-down, and ascetic presentation can be. I certainly can’t say (nor is it my place to do so) how much active faith was brought to the event by the celebrant, or the congregants, but I can say with certainty that God was there.

And God was there for the kids and spouses being dragged along by their family. God was there for the out-of-town relations who are back for a visit. God was there people who only show up once or twice a year – or less. And God was even there for random strangers who just happened to show up. Because, oddly enough, I was not the only leather-clad, long-haired, aging hippie freak present. During the Communion ritual, down from the balcony came another who, by all appearances, could easily have been a member of my own tribe back in the day. And in truth, I don’t know who was angel to whom, but it seemed serendipitous that there should be another misfit amongst the crowd of clean-cut, clean-shaven, farmers and other local respectables.

And so I took communion. For sure, I could think of a lot of reasons why I shouldn’t – doctrinal differences, personal controversies, alienation, and expectations. But the one reason I should – to say something to myself and to God – won out, because we really are all one in Him. Even those of us who are just muddling through without a clue.

I’m not so sure that I’m in any hurry to head back into a church. There is too much that is toxic to me in the evangelical world for that, but there is this: “the LORD is good and his love endures forever” (Ps. 100:5 NIV). All we have to do is show up.


This document was translated from LATEX by HEVEA.