I don't feel like going to church this morning

The house is quiet and I’ve an essay to finish. It seems a pity to waste a good opportunity. My fundamentalist background tells me church is obligatory. We must go at least once a week and praise the Lord.

This means sitting down and standing up and singing hymns, some of which are good by their familiarity if now doctrinally suspect, or choruses which are all too familiar in every sense of the word. As well as this the preacher will tell us some facts about God as (s)he sees them, and we will pray.

It might be good for me to focus on problems bigger and beyond assignments. I’m not sure if this comes under ‘praise the Lord’. This morning the idea of church feels like a tribal ritual worshipping its Distant Deity. All a bit pagan really. Maybe even more so, supposing pagans have a sense of Other among them rather than somewhere Out There.

Feeling good

I could go this morning for the feel-good factor. This is wrong in some circles. It’s selfish. We go for the benefit of others, not ourselves. But to all those who aren’t me, I’m one of the others. They in this case will be doing good to me, so what’s the point of that if I’m not allowed to receive it?

Why will I find church good? There’s the choir, and if the Regulars are preaching it will be good, but it’s the holiday season now so we might get Someone Else. A foreigner from an outside tribe! LM doesn’t tell us what we’re doing wrong, he talks of how God works to make us right, his theme is harmony from chaos, a sense of completion rather than small moralistic attitudes.

St Peter’s is an old church. There’s the constant reminder of continuity, times past, a sense that what we believe is much bigger than this moment, this particular congregation. Centuries of people have been christened in it, married from it and buried outside it. It reminds me - it reminds us - that we are not the centre of the universe.

Affirmation

Am I beginning to see God in others, or to allow myself to believe in this possibility? In those who are pleased to see me, those who offer me a lift a home, those who sing - well - divinely, intercessors whose prayers are surprisingly relevant. Is all this what God is? I don’t mean just a sense of being admired but the whole dynamic of affirmation that works between us, makes us this particular community. Individually we grow into wholeness and form a community. It is to be hoped that we find ourselves coalescing with other communities, and I believe this would make sense to those of other faiths. It’s odd how so many who think they know how to define God are so good at splitting believers with new revelations, rather than uniting them.

Continuity

Does God have a past? Of course he’s always been and we need to know he’s not our own invention, but is what really matters this particular interactive God of Now, not what he said to Pachyderm the Anchorite way back - well God knows when? There and then it was probably important, but is God’s continuity rather like blood and genes, in me at this moment, handed down through my ancestors? Odd to think of a characteristic once important to an unknown forebear in sixteen hundred and something. I hope it was helpful then. It’s good to know it continues but there’s not a lot I can do about it.

What difference would it make to history if we were able to study and reconstruct a family history for generations back by studying genetics? We couldn’t of course, because each one of us is made from two different people. Which shows that right from the beginning life can never really be independent. Unity - or do I mean union - is the start of our existence. Isolation and living are incompatible.

So why am I going to church this morning? To be part of the community, the harmony - part of God, alarmingly enough. Ideally this is supposed to be possible anywhere, but it’s good to make a habit of putting it into practice where it comes easiest.

Ann R Parker


http://www.stpetersnottingham.org/misc/thismorning.htm
St Peter's Church, Nottingham
Last revised 1st November 1998