The best thing about today's sermon (er... collect? homily? I am an Episcopalian by current practice, but a non-denominational "charismatic" protestant by upbringing, and there are times when I feel more adrift in the waters of our current church than J does, and he grew up without religion at all.) Anyway, the best thing about today's church service, which was outdoors on account of Pentecost, was the pinky fingernail sized frog that hopped along the edge of our picnic blanket. It was cute and fascinating! I've grown a lot in the time since I was a kid drawing on the back of my church bulletin, but I don't seem to have matured much in my ability to maintain focus on any kind of preaching.
Other good parts were the music, which was normal singing set to guitar rather than "chanting" led by piano and a cantor, and after church when there was a real church picnic, which I have not been to since I was such a young person and which provided all of the wondrous foods that seem exclusive to picnic lunches. (Oh three bean salad, how I love you! And cut up watermelon and baked beans and pimento cheese sandwiches with the crusts cut off!)
At some point I will have to gather and organize my thoughts on the topic of Why It Is That I Go To Church In The First Place. Largely it's because I do have some vague sense that it is important to focus on living a life that is in line with one's values, and church seems like a good way to maintain that focus.
I started to fall out of non-denominational "charismatic" Protestantism at age 18 when I could no longer reconcile what I felt in my conscience to be true with what my church was telling me I should believe. I was at my friend L's house, and he had a painting on the wall that his boyfriend had done of the two of them in the bathtub together, L's arms around the artist. It was the sweetest, most romantic thing I had ever seen, so pure and good and right that it killed the last shreds of the "love the sinner hate the sin" bullshit that I had been clinging to as a young Christian with gay friends.
That's why we're at least sort of Episcopalians now. Our congregation anyway is big on social justice, and I get a lot out of hearing the lessons I've known since childhood framed in a way that supports this kind of thinking. There are a lot of aesthetic, decorative things that I would prefer about a less ritualized church experience, but amid all of the incense and chanting here there's nothing that I am ashamed of being associated with.
So there are lots of good reasons for us to attend a weekly service. That said, the real reason that we started going was J's mom. It would be a nice routine for her and good for us to have the support of a church community. ("We pray for all in our congregation who care for family members with dementia," is included in the"cycle of prayer" email that goes out weekly, and I do feel something when I read it. Uplifted.)
K moved into her eldercare home last Tuesday. This was our first Sunday without her. Yeah, we still went.
Like I said, I am still considering and sorting out the reasons that I'm going to church again after a solid twenty years without it. Maybe it will just boil down to picnic lunches and Our Friends Are There. I don't think I'll ever feel like a Christian the way I did as a teenager again. But I do feel like there's something valuable in fellowship with a community of like-minded individuals and being reminded of things like the beatitudes and being stewards of creation.