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In which I explain why I like going to church

Because we drive by the farms on the edge of town and the tinies watch for sheep.  Because I almost always consider pulling over on the side of the road just to take photos of our Sunday drive: the crisp blue sky and the sharp green rolling hills, the turning-red blueberry bushes squatted across the fields, the rise of the mountains in the haze of morning, but how can you Instagram the rush of cold air in your lungs and how it makes you feel so beautifully, so fully, alive?

Because we walk in and Pat will hug me while she hands Joe the bulletin. Because after a week of Facebook and school pick-ups and drop-off lines, a week of writing and laundry, a week of working and to-do lists, I hear my name called out in the lobby and, maybe for just a moment, someone sees me.

Because we laugh with one friend, ask how another one’s health is doing, figure out who needs a meal this week. We exchange quick hugs as placeholders for the conversation that might unfold this week or next, maybe next month. We engage in all the small talk that precedes the heart-talks. I hear about a dear young couple whose baby might be coming home soon and now I’ve got a little tunic to knit for a beloved and longed-for baby to cast on later this afternoon.

Because someone is always glad to see my tinies. Because these are their friends. Because my tinies head for the kid table of colouring pages and crayons just to offer up a high five to their children’s pastor, they are home.

Because we sit in folding chairs in a rather drafty school gym and our tinies sprawl on the floor at our feet or perch on our hips or stand beside us and watch it all, all, all, taking it in.  This is what we do on Sundays, we tell them, we live it with them, we gather.

Because my friend Tracy leads worship, she wears biker boots and sometimes her hair is pink. Because when she begins to stomp those boots on that wooden stage and when she stretches her arms out wide, tips her head back and cries out to God like she believes it, it makes me want to sit down and cry. Because the guy who play the piano sings old Keith Green songs, the same ones I used to sing to my babies in the sleepless nights. Because my son wants to sit in the front row. Because my toddler raises her hands up and warbles and hollers a song, she thinks she’s singing along, and no one gives her a dirty look. Because my eldest is twirling in the back with her best friends, eager for the worship dance class starting in November.

Because that couple over there just got married and that other one has been married for forty years. Because that dad has his arm around his teenage son and that lady took my exhausted friend’s little baby right out of her arms with a gentle smile and said, go on, you go on and sing or sit down, I’ll look after her for a little while, and I saw my friend’s eyes well up with thankful tears. Because this guy is in recovery and that guy is his sponsor. Because all these teenagers like to sing their hearts out and because I can hear babies and restless toddlers making noise without restraint.

Because I love to sing and where else in our lives do we get to sing communally anymore? Because I love happy-clappy choruses and sober hymns, because “I love you, Lord” sounds so beautiful in my own mouth. Because I love to worship with my people, and these are my people.

Because I chat in the always-long line-up for tea and coffee. Because I sit beside my husband and we whisper back and forth during the sermon, it’s the closest we get to date night some months. Because we know and love our pastors for their humanity, not in spite of it, for their expansive pastoral hearts that make room for all of us, because of the way they show up for us. Because sometimes it’s an amazing sermon and sometimes it’s, um, not. Because we pass the bread and the cup, and we give each other communion and there is room at the table for everyone in this room.

Because I’ll see this little group of people on Thursday night for our Bible study, and that is where we’ll talk about the real stuff, show up, be disappointed and forgive, love each other a bit more every week. We’re friends now, but I see the promise of a sense of family coming.

Because even though the phrase “going to church” kind of bugs me (we don’t go, we are), and even though it’s messy and imperfect, even though I’ve let them down and they have let me down, even though there are disappointments, even though I don’t agree with everybody and they probably think I’m crazy sometimes, too, even though I don’t think we need an official sanctioned Sunday morning thing to be part of the Body of Christ, because even though I think the Church crosses a lot of our self-made boundaries and preferences and gatekeepers, I keep choosing this small family out of hope and joy.

Because I want my children to grow up with the imperfect community of God like I did. Because I want to reclaim my heritage of faith as worthy of intention. Because I need to receive and I need to give. Because I want the tinies to know that however much I mess up, however much I fall short of my own ideals, I was planted in the house of God because this is where I practice it, learn it, start all over again. Because I want my tinies to know what my voice sounds like when I sing Amazing Grace.

Because at the end of the service, they practice the priesthood of all believers and anyone can pray for anyone else. Just go ahead and pray, go ahead. Talk to each other, you don’t need a sanctioned commissioning, you are already part of this Body so go on then. Because I need to be around people who love Jesus, too.

Because I know Jesus better when I hear about Him from other people who follow Him, too. Because I almost always encounter the Holy Spirit in a profound, sideways sort of way when we’re gathered together in His name. Because then I leave and I go back out into my world, my neighbourhood, my life, and there is always the promise of next week. Because some of my greatest wounds have come from church and so my greatest healing has happened here, too.

In a fractured and mobile and globalized world, intentional community, church, feels like a radical act of faith and sometimes like a spiritual discipline. We  show up at a rented school and drink a cup of tea with the people of God and remember together, who we are, why we live this life, and figure out all over again how to be disciples of The Way, because we are people of hope.

 

 

church, community, faith

30 Responses to In which I explain why I like going to church

  1. Aaron October 13, 2013 at 9:50 am #

    I wish that was what church was like near me.

    • Sarah Bessey October 13, 2013 at 3:43 pm #

      I wish that, too. And it took a long time for this community to develop for me.

      • Aaron October 14, 2013 at 4:44 am #

        Thanks for that. And I know that I’m a part of that equation, so it’s not the world’s fault that I haven’t found that. I really do see how much you’re apart of making that community too.

  2. anon October 13, 2013 at 10:19 am #

    Because I have been alone in many strange cities.. and found Him there, in the eyes of secret believer meeting mine across a coffee in a coffee shop, talking about life in broken English, in the “authorized” expat church with the cheesy American accents, in conversation with the Asian who tells me it’s not hard being a Christian here, you just sometimes get beaten, in the living room of the new missionaries still getting to grips with daily life, in a hurried email conversation to find me a floor to sleep on in a new country when I need to make a visa trip. Memories of a baptismal service in a foreign tongue, in a lake. Sharing bread. Because of glimpses of glory along the dusty path. Amen, Sarah.

  3. James Prescott October 13, 2013 at 10:51 am #

    Beautiful. My church, my church experience & view of church is similar in many ways. We are truly blessed.

  4. Bev Murrill October 13, 2013 at 11:01 am #

    I love Church… the great, wide, beautiful, multicultural people that stretches across time and space and race and culture. There is nothing like them. I love them. … Loving the local church is not always quite so easy, is it. Loving the guy who can’t speak life and the lady who wants to always know everything, or who already does know everything… and yet, as you say so beautifully… WE are the people of God. It is WE who He loves; not just some of us but ALL of us. He doesn’t prefer me to her, nor does He prefer him to me… God help us know that. In the end, He gave His life so that we who were once not the people of God… are NOW the people of God. thank God for His mercy. I love that you love the Church.

    • Sarah Bessey October 13, 2013 at 3:43 pm #

      Exactly – it’s both the hardest part and the best part of Church. Love how you put this, Bev.

  5. Marina Lehman October 13, 2013 at 11:54 am #

    This brought tears to my eyes, Sarah. A blessing on you, in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, for loving the Church, not just in the abstract, but in the particular of that community. And for reminding those of us in new and unfamiliar churches what there is to hope for.

  6. Jonathan October 13, 2013 at 3:02 pm #

    I’ve recently found a church a lot like this, and I’m overflowing with thankfulness. Who can doubt the reality of God’s Spirit in such a place?

  7. pastordt October 13, 2013 at 4:39 pm #

    Glory, glory and amen. YES. So glad you found each other.

  8. rayhollenbach October 13, 2013 at 5:22 pm #

    Thanks for your sustained an excellent work, Sarah–and this post is among your best. You’ve honored God and served believers everywhere. Grace and peace . . .

  9. Christie Esau October 13, 2013 at 6:04 pm #

    As per usual, I love this (and especially all of those ‘because’s). And indeed: we don’t go; we are.

  10. Sharalee Zacharias Smith October 13, 2013 at 6:50 pm #

    Such a great word, Sarah!!! You painted a picture of the House amazingly!! Love it!!

  11. R W October 13, 2013 at 9:08 pm #

    That was lovely. From another who goes to church in the arctic tundra of a school multipurpose room whose boilers haven’t been turned on yet, thank you! :)

  12. Cara Strickland October 13, 2013 at 9:51 pm #

    This is lovely, Sarah. You’re right, I think. Sometimes God uses the same vehicle that has brought great pain to bring healing. I am experiencing this in church, and I love going for many of the same reasons.
    Love you, dear one! Thank you for your continued gentle nudges toward unity.

  13. Mel Caldicott October 14, 2013 at 2:33 am #

    Beautiful post, Sarah! So full of the beauty of grace. Thanks for this wonderful picture of church which we all need reminding of at times – it’s not perfection but it is glorious!
    Blessings
    Mel from Essential Thing Devotions

  14. Jessica Clemmer October 14, 2013 at 5:13 am #

    Your beautiful words resonate completely, as I have those same feelings about my church family. It’s a messy, exhausting, exciting and faithful bunch. Some days it feels like so.much.work. to keep being the church…but some days…MANY days…it feels like work to be family with my own little brood as well, so work doesn’t mean “not worth it”. It just means sometimes we need to be reminded, by a word-picture like yours, of the wondrous glory of it that occasionally we lose sight of when we’re tangled up inside of it all. Thanks for the perspective.

  15. Rubyslippers October 14, 2013 at 3:37 pm #

    How did you write what I didn’t even know was in my mind and my heart? I have always felt this way, but I have never been able to say it so eloquently.
    Thank you.

  16. Adriel Booker October 14, 2013 at 10:13 pm #

    Oh Sarah. Too much beauty and hope and healing in a handful of words. This is why we need your ministry – not just so that the “world” can see Jesus, but so that the Church can see Jesus. If this doesn’t spur us on in love with Her, then I don’t know…

  17. Michaela Evanow October 16, 2013 at 6:00 pm #

    Oh. This sounds like my husbands church he once attended before we were married, where it was free, free, free, and I went once, lapped it up, slightly scared, but in love. I think it was called Fresh Wind, or something lovely like that. Brad Jersak’s church :) You write me home when I read about your life in the lower mainland. It hasn’t always been my home, as I was an island dweller. But I see my Vancouver heart in your words. Thanks Sarah.

  18. danielle October 16, 2013 at 6:45 pm #

    Amen. I love it too.

  19. Liz Diaz October 17, 2013 at 1:58 pm #

    “Because some of my greatest wounds have come from church and so my greatest healing has happened here, too.” I don’t think I’ve ever thought of it this way, thank you for speaking this truth!

  20. Jane Halton October 17, 2013 at 8:56 pm #

    I just re-read this Sarah. I think it would be an amazing exercise for me to write this about my church. Just to write it for myself and for God. Yeah I think that would be good.

  21. Beth Steffaniak October 21, 2013 at 7:56 am #

    Hi, Sarah! I’m new to your blog and just came over from my good friend, Linda’s blog. I’m so glad she introduced you over at her place. I resonate with your church experience. It sounds so very much like mine! I especially love this line, “Because I know Jesus better when I hear about Him from other people who follow Him, too.” By the way, you are a stunning beauty!

  22. Ceil October 21, 2013 at 9:52 am #

    Hi Sarah! I am coming over from Linda’s Creekside Ministry blog.

    I love your description of driving to church…I think that’s my favorite part. I can feel that cool/almost cold wind on my face.

    You surely have a heart for community. I think Jesus does too, he loves to see us share our knowledge and love of him together. I am sure that you pass along all the encouragement you get from your church family, and that is a beautiful thing. If we could all be as enthusiastic and warm as your pink-haired friend, wouldn’t life be that much more amazing??

    Congratulations on your new book coming out! That’s exciting :)
    Ceil

  23. Meghan January 8, 2014 at 9:13 pm #

    I’m very, very new to your blog. I wept through this whole thing! If you don’t mind, I’m going to (try) to use this as a template to write this about my church.

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