To the casual onlooker, going to Church can be very unappealing. Churches can often seem limited, unwelcoming clubs for people who are dull and boring, hogging a building that the rest of the community can’t wait to get their hands on to turn into an art gallery, or a trendy wine bar. Either that, or they’re places full of middle-class, middle-aged, ‘happy-clappy’ no-brains, with smug smiles, jumping around and singing to ordinary music. Is it any wonder that church going appears to be on the decline?
The truth is that church comes in all sorts of shapes and sizes. Whatever else it is, however, in order to be a real church, it has to be more than just a building or website where people meet.
A real church is a community, inspired by God, who lives in unity with himself – Father, Son and Holy Spirit – an eternal community. Church is about being a people of mutual love and support, emotionally and spiritually. In this way, it becomes a visible expression of God’s presence in the world. This is what Jesus intended Church to be like, and it was how the first Christians tried to live.
There are many reasons that Christians attend Church, and in this writing, I shall be looking into these reasons, and seeing how they affect the life of Christians today. Much of my writing is based on things that people have said to me, which I have expanded on, and much of it is based on how I personally feel about why I go to Church, and how it affects my life.
Many people feel closer to God when they are at Church. Although you can pray anywhere, anytime, many Christians find it easier, or find themselves more comfortable doing so at Church. Church is the ‘house of God’ so they feel that they can relate more to him here. Still on the theme of praying, many people like to pray as a group. A prayer is often stronger when a whole congregation come together, and all fully believe in their prayer. Many believe that this type of praying is more ‘effective’.
Going to Church can also be a ‘common interest’ between friends and families. This is a ‘meeting place’ and this is where they pray together and spend time with one-another – in the presence of God.
I think that the main affect that attending Church has on peoples lives, is the feeling of God accepting their offering of thanks. God gave himself in Jesus, to save us from our sins, and many Christians find the need to thank God for this. It is a way of showing God that what he did for them was appreciated.
Another affect that going to Church has on people, is simply the education. You can learn so much about God from just one sermon, and you can hear other people’s views and opinions about the mysteries of life, and things that perhaps you don’t understand.
People can receive guidance from God through going to Church. God speaks to each of us through other people – our friends, our family, our community – and in attending Church, other people who hold the same beliefs can give you advice, guidance and encouragement. Going to church gives many Christians the feeling of ‘being at home’; a feeling of belonging. They know that God has called them, and they feel that they are in the right place.
Church can also be a safety net for many. In times of crisis or grief, many people turn to God by going to Church. If you are not a practising Christian, and you then feel that you want to ‘fill a void’, by turning to God, it can sometimes be easier with the help of others, and people can find this help at Church.
The year 2003 marks the 900th Anniversary of St Mary’s Church. The Church hoped to make this year an invitation to the whole community to look afresh at this great Church at the heart of the town of Shoreham, to appreciate its history and exceptional architecture, and to learn more about its place in the unfolding story of Christianity in this area.
For the Church community it is an opportunity to examine its life and work, its mission and outreach, and to renew its efforts in both evangelism and care for others.
Above all, its is hoped that St Mary’s will be recognized as a place that welcomes all comers for whatever reason, and that during the year those who would not normally come into Church will be attracted by a wide variety of events, both sacred and secular.
What are rites of passage? Well, rites of passage are held at various stages of our life; birth and death being the two major rites. There are also Name-Fasting (when a person, baby or adult, is given a name), Hand-Fasting (the Pagan wedding ceremony) and Coming of Age. To celebrate a rite such as a baptism, the coming into Christ’s family, many people hose to hold a baptism ceremony. This is one reason why having a church is excellent – it is a place where families can come together with the community, to baptise and share their child’s coming into the faith. At church, there is a font, where the baby is ‘dipped’. This is to show purity, cleansing of sins, and welcoming the child into its ‘new life’. Another main rite is death. In the same way as at a baptism, people gather together here for a funeral/celebration of life.
Finally, many Christians find that going to Church, helps them to find out who they really are. They can experience God through others, and others can experience God through them. I think that once you step into Church, you will know whether or not you are truly meant to be there. God intended the Church for everyone, but to go to Church in a way that is true to yourself, you have to want to go; otherwise, you will sit through the sermon, wondering why you are there, and not back in bed!