blog on Friday, talks about a recent Barna Group survey that indicates that while 95% of Americans believe in God, there continues to be a decline in regular worship attendance. This really comes as no surprise since we often hear of more and more people who claim to be “spiritual but not religious.” It is also a trend I can understand as we see more and more spiritual options available to people while so many churches remain stodgy, often stuck in another time. On the other hand we are seeing the rise of evangelical mega churches catering to the whims of the suburban class, and whose services sound to me like just another day at the mall.
The Rabbi makes a very good case in his blog post for being spiritual without bothering with regular worship attendance. He then asks his readers to respond, explaining why they do or do not go to a house of worship regularly. I took him up on it and responded with the following reasons I do attend worship regularly:
Why I Go to Church
Why I Go to Church
1. I value sacred places and ritual. I know that a church, synagogue, mosque, or temple are not the only sacred spots, but there is something to be valued in a place that a community holds as sacred. One of the values of liturgy as I see it in Catholic, Episcopal, and Orthodox Churches is that it is always there. There are some days when I am not particularly into it, and that’s okay because other times I can really step into it and experience the sacred moment. It is always there for me to either step into or to observe. One day I may really be “into it” while another is just going through the motions. Another day we will change roles and I’ll be the one going through the motions, but the liturgy is always there and available, nevertheless.
2. It is a habit. I like the continuity. I like that there is a group to which I can belong, even when I am feeling like an outsider. I read a research study that claimed that people who gather weekly with others are healthier. That just affirmed to me the value of my habit. (Of course, I also pay attention to those surveys that say coffee is good for you, but disregard the ones that say coffee is bad for you – you know how research goes.)
3. I am stubborn. I see those surveys that claim that regular churchgoers are more likely to vote conservative Republican. I am determined that I will be one churchgoer who will skew the numbers by voting for a liberal Democrat whenever I get the chance.
4. Sometimes I hear something that I need to hear. I must admit that I don’t read the Bible like I did when I was a young Evangelical, but at church I will sit and listen to the readings. Each week I’ll hear readings from the Old Testament, the Psalms, a New Testament epistle, and the Gospels. I may even hear something in the homily that is enriching.
5. I know that when I carry non-perishable goods to the First Sunday Food Drive, it will get to people who really need it, and I’ll be helping more people than I could by my own efforts (though I will continue to support liberal government programs than can help even more).
6. I am an introvert, so I have to work at this, but I recognize the need for community.
7. Sometimes programs will be offered that I really enjoy. For example, during the last Lenten season, a study in the English metaphysical poets was offered at our parish – a most inspiring series for one who loves poetry. This summer, our parish took part in an urban gardens project which my daughter participated in, growing vegetables for the local food bank.
8. I’m not saying that I go every single Sunday, so the days I choose not to attend services (when I realize, as Jesus said, "the Sabbath was made for man (sic), not man for the Sabbath") that in itself becomes a restful, nourishing time.
9. I think it is important to keep institutions intact which can convey our spiritual heritage. Even though most people I know who have a vibrant spiritual life must move on from the rote elementary practices found at the parish level, we still need that traditional institution to provide us with some common language and concepts.
10. I like the music. Sometimes the music does more for me than anything else. For me, music is a quick path to transcendence.
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I would also add that worship attendance would not be as meaningful if I were not open to spiritual experiences throughout the week. Those experiences can arise from a hike in the woods, music, drama, poetry, and interaction with family and friends. On another blog I recently discovered, Spiritually Speaking, Jane "Silver Spirit" reminds us that Pierre Teilhard de Chardin said. “We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience.”