Take Me to Church
I have spent more Sundays in church than not. Both of my parents are ordained clergy in the United Methodist Church. I grew up going to church every Sunday morning. I didn’t realize it was an option not to go to church until I was older.
I’m not complaining. I loved church! I made wonderful friends at the different churches we attended throughout my childhood. I loved my Sunday school teachers and the snacks they provided. I felt cared for in church. My parents were often busy — they were at work! — so other “parents” would step in and make sure we were cared for and behaving appropriately.
I didn’t attend every Sunday in college, but I was probably there more often than most of my friends. And then, after graduating from college, I accepted my first job as a youth minister. Unless I was on vacation, I was at church every Sunday — morning and evening.
During the fall of 2016 I had a three month sabbatical from youth ministry. Even though I didn’t have to go to church, I still went visited other churches in the area. Going to church on Sunday was part of a routine. One that I partially felt obliged to follow.
This obligatory feeling isn’t from my understanding of God or from my church’s expectations of me. It comes from my understanding that church — the building — is where I meet God.
During my sabbatical I began to rediscover my connection with God outside of the church walls.
Here I am three years later and once again finding myself not in a church building on Sunday mornings. Partly it is due to work and personal travel. But there’s more to it than that. I want to go to church. I want to be surrounded by beautiful music and heart-felt prayers. I want to feel loved and welcome. I can receive all of that when I go to church, but then I also experience some big egos that distract me. I’ve felt less inclined to go to church and more inclined to go for a walk, so that’s what I’ve done.
I walk through the neighborhood with two dogs by my side. We go to church together.
Call to Worship
The excitement is palpable as we step outside. One dog longs for a run, the other is grateful for a slow walk. I’m appreciating the low humidity and cool morning. We all have our reasons for being here, each different, each welcome.
We walk up the driveway toward the street and the sun shines brightly on my face. I close my eyes and say, “Thank you.”
These are constant. They never stop. Even now, as I sit here inside typing, I hear the hymns continue. It doesn’t matter who is listening, they will sing all day until the sun begins to drop. So many birds singing their songs. Woodpeckers provide the rhythm. Owls add their own low tones. Dogs bark occasionally, reminding us we aren’t alone. Later on the cicadas will add their own methodic rhythm.
My friend’s mom died a month ago. Friends with multiple health concerns. Friends who are facing anniversary after anniversary of loved ones’ deaths. Family. Loneliness. There’s a lot of hurt in this world. Look at all the cars driving on this street right now. Each one contains a person with his or her own story — the history of hurts and excitement, the present worries and joys, the future of unknowns. Each person living in their own world, among all the other worlds.
The leaves on the trees — some still green, others waiting to fall. The nests high above. The warm breeze landing on my skin, piquing the interest of my dogs’ noses. The squirrels running around — hopping from trunk to branch. Dogs walking happily with their owner. God’s presence, God’s love. None of us are alone.
A dog barks in the yard across the street. I look over and it’s above the fence, on the trampoline. I wonder if it likes to jump too. I laugh out loud.
I see the shadows in front of us, feeling the sun on my back. Three shadows — separate but one.
We come to a choice — go straight or turn left. We’ve done both. I let the older dog choose. We go left. She looks up at me, pleased.
We are not alone — so many have come to church with us today.
Squirrels, all over the place. One doesn’t see us coming, so I say, “Hi squirrel.” It sees us and runs away. Denali looks longingly, I say, “Sorry Denali.” Birds — so many birds. I wish I could identify them by their songs. I see a cardinal and a nuthatch. I hear so many more. Trees — dead and alive. Stumps, branches, sticks. Hostas blooming, day lilies almost done for the season. A dog barks, I assume at us. I look over and he jumping at the door. He didn’t even see us, he just wants back inside.
I glance over and see a woman at the window — maybe washing dishes? The driveway is full of cars. I wonder why they are there.
A mosquito or two have landed on me. I ask again, “What is the point of this creature?” My hand begins to itch — it didn’t swat it away soon enough.
I remembered that a friend commented on a picture of me on Facebook, but it wasn’t my picture. I need to write her back. Don’t let me forget that.
Notice — remember to notice. I am aware that my mind wanders, that it’s hard to stay present for the full hour. But, I was mostly present. And that’s okay.
Returning home, back down the street. Don’t forget to grab the mail, we didn’t do that yesterday — returning to the tasks of daily life. But, God is present in that too. I don’t have to be in church to know that. God is all around. Love is all around.
I do believe there is a gift offered when we gather together, directing our energy for love and healing in the world. I experience that gathering inside a church building, in a concert venue, or walking down the street with my dogs.
As long as my eyes, ears and heart are open to the beauty around me, I’ll always be in church.
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Anne chooses to live a good, full life despite a diagnosis of infertility. Through her writing, she explores the many ways that loss, pain, and grief provide opportunities for growth, healing, and transformation. In paying attention to the ordinary, Anne discovers the extraordinary and loves to share those discoveries with the world. / Read more of Anne’s writings at annebrock.com or connect with her on Instagram.