The duty of all Christians is to follow Christ; to come together week by week for corporate worship; and to work, pray, and give for the spread of the kingdom of God.
The Catechism, BCP page 856
A friend asked recently why I go to church, do I really get anything out of it? “Oh, absolutely" was my spontaneous response to the second part of her question. My answer to the first part I found upon reflection, is multifaceted. The first part of my response is simple: habit. I remember my grandfather walking me to Sunday School when I was three years old. My parents would have been driving the bishop to one of his visitations, one of my dad’s responsibilities as a third year seminarian. Once Dad was ordained there was no question how we would spend Sunday morning. That routine became part of me. I can’t imagine at this point that that will ever change.
But worshiping on Sunday morning, while a totally ingrained habit, is by no means rote. Going to church enriches my life in ways that nothing else does. For one thing, corporate worship makes me feel part of something larger than myself. That sense of connection is really important to me, and it doesn’t stop with the other people present at St. Mary’s on a given Sunday morning. There are certain hymns that transport me back to Trinity Cathedral in Trenton, New Jersey, where I began singing in the choir as a third grader. When we sing the hymns we sang at my parents’ memorial services they stir up not just memories of those services, but of mom and dad themselves. And of course when I hear the Rite I liturgy, I can close my eyes and in my mind’s ear, hear my dad celebrating in those same words, though he died thirty-five years ago this summer.
Perhaps the most important reason going to church means so much to me is that I've invested so much of myself in the liturgical life of St. Mary’s. This too harkens back to my dad, who emphasized that one only gets as much out of anything, be it school, church, or life itself, as one puts into it. People who come to church and just sit there waiting to be entertained aren’t likely to leave feeling very satisfied, he used to tell me. I’m sure that’s true. One of the reasons working with the acolytes means so much to me is that I believe it’s when people are given a role, a way to contribute, that they start to truly feel a part of something. Whatever they felt about church before, once acolytes walk up the aisle in cassock and cotta carrying a torch, St. Mary’s becomes THEIR church, and they’re worship leaders in it.
So why do you go to church? Someday your children, or grandchildren, or a friend your own age may want to know. What will you tell them?
How We Live is a monthly column in the Bellringer. Sharon Rodgers is St. Mary's Liturgist.