I may be Catholic now, but when I talk about my church family, I’m still referring to the Presbyterian church I grew up in. I’ve tried to ease into a Catholic community, but it’s not the same. My home church and my church family are somewhere else from where I worship. It’s not that either church is lacking in either aspect, but rather that I am unwilling to let go of the community I grew up in or of the faith I have in the Catholic Church.
Healthy churches have to provide both community and worship. The more I think about it, the more intertwined the two are. I can go into a church every Sunday for years, but without sticking around, meeting people, getting involved outside of worship, I’m not experiencing the true community of the church. Christians are called to be a community, to work together, to live together. Avoiding the community aspect is trying to make a communal exercise an individual one. It’s part of Western culture to focus on the individual, and it’s easy to fall in the trap of “what is the church doing for me?” That question leads to the coffee shop, praise concert, generationally-fractured type of church that markets worship to a variety of demographics. The justification is that marketing gets people in the doors. But what kind of community grows out of niche marketing? Being part of a church community should mean interacting with people who I have nothing in common with, but who I still love as my family. It should make me ask “what am I doing for the church?”
And then there is worship. As a church, we come together to worship God. Our focus on the holy is what differentiates the church from a social club. We can’t let worship become just another service offered, somewhere between family movie night and the quilting club. In the church newsletter last week, the pastor wrote, “On any given Sunday, the sermon may bomb, the anthem may falter or we may not feel anything special. Yet sustaining worship over time builds a rich harvest of good into us that we would not otherwise receive…God deserves our worship because God is God, and we are God’s creatures, made to live in union with the divine.”
Even when the feelings of peace or community or understanding aren’t there, God is. It’s important for our spiritual health to keep going, keep worshiping, keep fellowshipping. Worship should be the height of community. We come together to be silent, to pray, to focus solely on God. And afterword, we share a meal.