Church is good for you. Well so says this week’s Listener. On page 39 in and article called “The Social Cure’, Marc Wilson says “…the benefit of contact with others might be the finding that religiosity seems to predict a longer life. Indeed, as we age and our early friendships start to die off, a community with which we share religious convictions can provide us with a social support network… Generally, frequent churchgoers are more likely to stay married, but also to successfully quit smoking and stick to healthy exercise plans.”
Well there we have it. It’s all good. Except, what has this to do with the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, or the companioning of the Spirit? People can go to church for many reasons. I remember reading some 18th century dude (Boswell?) who went to church to spy out the pretty girls. I’ve had people visit to see if the place was ok for their wedding. Another comes to church to companion mother because that’s what she likes. Someone else I read recently was saying how sad it is that New Zealanders don’t go to church because so many people have not therefore discovered that they can sing, and think of the loss to national music that their hidden potential hasn’t been realised.
Church. A collective gathering whose raison d’être is to be open to the action and presence of God and respond in worship. Like prayer itself, I think collective worship is about intention. Intention is being clear about what I am doing and why. Do I really intend to open to God, or am I just there? Is the song just a repetition of something I know, or a means of opening to the goodness of God? Am I critiquing the sermon and the liturgy, or listening for God?
Son Peter told me about a church camp he was on last weekend. At one point in the collective worship, the band stopped singing and only played their instruments lightly. People were encouraged to sing their own song to the Lord, to serenade God’s goodness and be totally present to God rather than just having a sing-along with the band.
Presence with the Holy One is where real health is to be found I believe. In holy space we can stretch and live – as Bishop Kelvin’s post from Snowmass is telling us. So the real ‘cure’ that church can be is not the sociability but unity in God-presence.
Reference Code: KMDW
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