As a practising, ordained Minister your first predictive thought may be that I would laud the many reasons I miss going to Church. But then, you could think, 'Karen can be a bit unpredictable! She is a female Minister after all – and a Deacon – which are both minority ‘Minister’ categories. And then she doesn’t particularly like preaching - and rarely does. So maybe it is worth finding out which way she will jump!'
There are a number of contributing factors to my answer. Firstly, I have long ago decided that Church and Christianity are more about what you do, and who you are, when you leave the Church building, than what goes on during that hour or two a week. Sunday Church services are about many things, but they certainly don’t exist in a vacuum – they interact with the rest of the week. However, in my case, I also ‘do’ Church-related activities during the week, outside the building.
I lead two meditation groups per week. These groups are now conducted on Zoom and are little communities of their own. We have welcomed new people over this COVID-19 period, so it has been important that we get to know each other. We take turns giving a special insight into our lives, sometimes with a bit of show and tell. What fascinating people we are! We’ve had a collection of bells and gongs from around the world, some exquisite quilts and hand-made items, garden tours of rich diversity, deep reflections about finding joy (see previous blog), a creative home altar, family insights, pets and holidays, artists showing their pictures and insight into the life of the blind during COVID-19 – to name a few. Our spirituality impacts and infuses our whole life, which becomes clearer when you witness the joy of someone’s true passion. This time of sharing is followed by a short, spiritual reflection (often from the World Community for Christian Meditation), relaxation, silent mantra meditation and a closing reading to send us out. Community, message, meditation (which is referred to as the highest form of prayer by WCCM teachers), and sending out. Does that sound familiar?
I also have the privilege of hosting multiple Explore groups each week, currently over Zoom. These are small groups of people who earnestly investigate the foundations and expression of Christianity together. Not everyone comes convinced, but they are brave enough to explore this ancient, worldwide faith, which commands our respect. Each group has a different tone and focus. One is especially about ecology and our faithful response, the others focus more on the Bible and its origins, its characters in context and how we outwork the teachings of a faith that began thousands of years ago. Each group is a community, has a Biblical context to explore, engages in prayer and is sent out to compassionately enact what we have learned.
These groups are delightfully diverse. I love to see people from different walks of life and geographies come together and learn from each other and the unexpected relationships which flourish. Diverse perspectives bring life to ancient teachings. But they are not on Sunday and they are not in a Church building and we don’t sing. Yet, they are lively and fulfilling and I believe we communally honour God. I wonder how you define Church?
I invite you to continue with me next week, because I’m not finished yet. As a Community Chaplain I also host walking groups and co-host a Book Club. (Coffee groups in non-COVID time too). Most groups are open to newcomers and I will happily respond to your enquiries.
And - do I still miss going to Church on Sunday?
19/6/2020 10:35:33 pm
I miss going to Church. It has been something I have done all my life. I was taken to church as a toddler. When people gather together for worship, praise and thanksgiving it becomes something very special. God gives us strength. His Love never changes.
21/6/2020 07:15:25 pm
Dear Beryl - you have both given and received much over the years during Sunday worship and beyond. I hope it won’t be much longer before you can return.
21/6/2020 12:27:33 pm
Thanks for your message Karen. COVID has given me an interesting time to reflect on my experience of church.
21/6/2020 07:17:05 pm
Thank you Gaye. Appreciating your input too. We’re in this together!
23/6/2020 06:54:37 pm
I can cope if I miss Sunday worship occasionally, perhaps when on holiday or not well. But even when the service itself may leave me less than satisfied, I find being in that sacred space in the kind of quietness which seems to pervade the atmosphere when we are all at worship inclines me to a vulnerable openness to the experience. I interpret that experience as being in the presence of the Holy Spirit. Sometimes, I'm left feeling inwardly drained; sometimes stimulated to action; sometimes to a sense of release. But it almost always leads me to further self-examination and prayer. I am grateful for the gifts of stability and security that follow.
23/6/2020 08:32:44 pm
Thank you Bev for your honest insight. You must be finding this extended absence difficult then?
24/6/2020 03:18:41 pm
On the contrary, as we continue our services via ZOOM and see each other on the screen, those participating and those just watching, there is still in me an awareness of inwardness and vulnerability to being changed through the experience of shared worship. Taking this thought further, I would say that in solitary reading, reflection and meditative prayer, while there is also the chance of growing in faith and being changed by that, for me, the solitary experience needs to be based on worship shared in a community of faith.
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The articles here were written by Peter Andrews on behalf of the Chaplaincy Team from beginning 2023.