Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Church Sanctuary (#31 days to Sanctuary day 22)

Last night, I sat with a group of friends who have been part of my ministry journey.  One is a seminary friend who is working outside of the church, and the others (besides myself) are serving in local churches.  We talked about the reasons people give for not attending church these days, along with the reasons why we haven't always been a part of the church (or sometimes wish we weren't).  So many people are busy, and often Sundays are filled with sports, errands, or sleeping in.  There's an entire generation that is becoming more removed and doesn't understand the value of an hour (or more) sitting in pews passively listening to a sermon.  Others have been hurt or excluded by things said and done in the name of God. A lot is said these days about how the church is either dying or being reborn into something new.  There are statistics about fewer people in the pews, and also inspirational stories about how "church" is being done in new ways, outside the walls of a building.  We all have dreams of what it could look like, and hurts from times it hasn't lived up to the ideal.

Something keeps drawing me back, though, time after time.  I may grumble and complain, and I've been known to bad-mouth particular congregations due to bad experiences, but Sunday usually finds me in church.  For me, church has truly been about sanctuary.  My dad died when I was young, and it was the church that gathered around and supported us.  Church people brought casseroles and sat with me during the funeral.  Church men filled that missing male role in my life.  I gained leadership experience through opportunities within my congregation, and it was the church who sent me off to college and sent me notes to let me know I was missed.

Yes, it is broken, as any human institution.  Community is always messy, but the things that involve the most hard work are usually the things that earn our pride.  I've learned about grief and joy standing beside others as we share our concerns and celebrations with God and one another.  I've been reminded that it's not all about me as we work together to help others in our community.  It has been a safe place for my children to find other loving adults, ones who have publicly pledged to help raise them in faith.  When we are worn down by the stresses of parenting, we take advantage of our church's Parents Night Out program and thank God for a break.  When there is good news, there is a place where it will be shared and affirmed.

Church is not the only place in which we find community, but for me, it has been a sanctuary in which I find my place in the larger story of God's work in the world.  I am reminded of my calling to share the good news and to continue the work of restoring a broken creation through love.  Through the inevitable failures and frustrations, I try to rely on grace, understanding that it has been extended to me so many times.  I focus inward as I move outward, always seeking sanctuary wherever the journey takes me.

1 comment:

  1. My current church is my sanctuary in so many ways. Just last week, when Stephen sent out an email asking people why they love our church, I said it was a life-giving oasis in the wilderness for me, and really the only reason I can call Memphis "home." Without it, I might have run away by now. :)