Sunday, January 8, 2017

Missing Church

Today I will miss church to go to quilt group.  I try not to schedule anything on Sunday mornings, but some months, it's the only day that works for my whole quilt group.  It's not Word and Sacrament, as my fellow Lutherans would understand it, but it has some similarities.

That sentence takes me back to a conversation my spouse and I had long ago with the woman who was then my department chair.  She had found an AA group that had some spiritual aspects; for example, they started each meeting by asking where the members had seen God working in the world.  She said that the AA group felt nourishing, the way that church used to feel for her back when she went to a Charismatic Catholic church.  She wondered if it was enough.

My spouse said, "It's not Word and Sacrament."  I was surprised when she agreed.

I've thought about that conversation periodically throughout the years, usually when people are trying to convince me that there's no need to go to church, that other groups can fill that gap.  I want to believe in the power of human groups to call us to our best selves, to remind us of God's vision for creation, even if the group doesn't use those terms.  I want to believe in the power of the church to do that too.  I know full well how risky my belief is--I know all the ways that groups of all sorts have failed.

Much as I love my quilt group, it can't take the place of church.  And even one church, one religious community is not enough.  My memories of being at Mepkin Abbey or at Lutheridge often sustain me--it's those places that my mind goes, not my local church, when I'm reminiscing.

But my local church sustains me in other ways, ways which are just as important, perhaps more so, as I find myself rooted because of them.  We need mountain top experiences, but we need a community at the bottom of the mountain too.  Peter wants to stay on that transfiguration peak, but he can't, and neither can we.

So, today I'll be missing church--in more ways than one.  It will be good to be with friends, friends whom it is harder to see because we work at different schools and campuses now.  But it makes me aware how each choice, even those as mundane as where to spend a Sunday morning, mean doors close to other choices.

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