I attended church Sunday, just five days after fracturing my right humerus bone near my shoulder. Getting dressed was challenging; my arm hurt. Sitting in a chair with little support for my arm was uncomfortable. Some might wonder why attending church would be so important that I would push through that challenge so soon.
There was a time when being present in church would not have been as compelling as it was this week. Today, I am thinking aloud, processing how being present in church has changed for me.
We have been attending the same church for 11 years. I didn’t record the date when I began to pray earnestly to make friends and feel at home there. It took years. Ron even asked along the way about leaving to find a better fit. I nodded, “No,” because I believed we were where we should be. (If you are contemplating leaving a space, church, work, or other, Emily P. Freeman has podcasts that address those decisions.) Unless I blame myself, I don’t blame anyone for the time it took to feel at home. I’m an introvert and have heard from others that I am difficult to get to know. Instead of focusing on blame, I’d rather focus on how I have seen the hand of God at work.
During the Pandemic, I realized how much I enjoyed the gathering of saints on Sunday mornings. Our church, like many, began a robust YouTube presence during Covid with many of the smaller meetings on Zoom. After the initial steps were taken, the church staff offered an outdoor service, which was delightful and welcomed by many. I already knew that watching a worship service via video would not be satisfying. I am easily distracted, for one thing. And I can’t seem to engage my spirit even in a moving, well-preached sermon when presented on video. It becomes more of an academic practice that isn’t worship—developing this understanding of myself created a greater desire to be present for Sunday services.
Additionally, God specifically answered my prayer for friendship. We were doing all the right things – participating in community and cohort study groups, but there were only very limited personal relationships growing out of those meetings. I remember the first conversations that led to solid friendships. My heart swelled with gratitude, but I also realized I needed to grow in the art of being a friend.
When the pandemic began to subside, Ron and I determined to practice hospitality more regularly, inviting families to dinner. At first, our goal was to have guests once a month – a modest goal. I have some health issues exacerbated by stress, so I needed to start small. Ron would invite someone over every week, but he patiently waited for me – still does. Our plan was simple: simple “weeknight” food, with an opportunity to get to know more people in our congregation. After having some folks over to dinner, Sundays became more engaging for me because conversations before and after the service were not as awkward. For introverts, making small talk in unstructured environments is uncomfortable.
In the last 3 to 4 years, my church attendance changed dramatically. I no longer just go to church. Instead, I worship with my faith family. I long to see them, to hug, smile, and swap updates. We have a young church, so many couples are like younger brothers and sisters. (Actually, they could be sons and daughters!!) I love hearing about their week and sharing bits and pieces of what God has been doing.
In this season that some call the great “dechurching,” I want to belong, participate, and be present more than ever. If you do not have a church home, I’d love for you to join me!