September 2015 – Why church?

As I write, just back from a Sunday away (having been part of a family baptism in another Methodist church) – listening to our most recent Sunday worship services in both Bourne and Cataumet online, and reading over the words of those who have just spoken in both churches this past Sunday – I’m feeling blessed as I’m reminded of just how much church means for many of us. (This is no surprise. But it’s wonderful to hear it expressed from the heart, in each person’s own words.) In Cataumet, several shared reflections on the theme of What does church mean to me? (Many thanks to John White, lead organizer on this topic, and Cathy George, Arne and Vicki Carr, and Pat Stewart who also spoke.) In Bourne, Susan Goux’s sermon title was Why we come to church, and why many do not come to church, and why it matters. Questions that we can fruitfully consider for a long time. What does church mean for us? Why do we come to church? Surely we all have different answers, yet just as surely there are also many things we hold in common… What church means and why church matters changes for many of us over the course of our lives… Even during the course of a week or a day I may give a different answer… Certainly church for me is always about the presence of God in the lives of God’s people. But that can be a bit like saying ‘always the same… and always changing.’ Last Sunday at the baptism of our grand-niece, we and all the church were happy, singing praise songs, with one-year-old Emerie herself splashing enthusiastically in the baptismal font with her hands, trying to squirm out of dad’s arms into the water. We felt joy in God’s presence all day, as we worshiped and feasted together afterwards with church members, family and friends… The next day I attended the funeral of a friend who just died from breast cancer, leaving her pastor husband, two young children, a large extended family and many close friends all deeply grieving. Now I was at an almost opposite end of the emotional spectrum from the previous day. Yet God and the church were just as certainly present, as people comforted each other and prayed for the family of the departed. Many committed to help provide for the needs of Diana’s and Marlin’s children. The Holy Spirit was powerfully present. Home again now, resuming familiar routines, I’ve been reflecting on my own life’s journey, and remembering some of the many ways in which God has used the church, with all its diversity of people with many and varied gifts and graces, to shape and re-shape my life. As I get a bit older my life seems to come up for more frequent times of review and reflection. And in just the course of this short summer, I’ve been part of a wedding, a baptism, and four memorial services. Most of all, I’ve been part of the daily life of God’s people in this parish. Every Sunday we worship, pray, sing, share together in the life of the church. And every other day of the week we carry on the life of the church in innumerable ways that enrich the...

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