What is the Point of Church-going?

“What then, is the point of “church going?” Ask a theologian and you’ll get one kind of answer. Ask overworked parents of young children and you’ll get another. For me, it’s an opportunity to acknowledge by being in the presence of others that I’m not alone in believing in the Divine, in expressing gratitude for the Spirit’s presence in my life, and in seeking ways to respond more fully to that spirit…Churches can be energizing places for dialogue and discovery.” – Gail Reitenbach.   

Why do we go to church? Do we do so because we believe that will get us to heaven? Have we any idea what that even means? Do we attend to be seen or to see what others might be there? Do we have nothing better to do on a Sunday morning? Why do we go?

I like what Gail Reitenbach has to say about this. The Christian community bears witness to the fact that we are not alone. The community bears witness that together we believe that our lives belong to God. It gives us the opportunity to sing our thanksgiving for God’s work in our lives as individuals and as a community. And yes, she is right; churches can be great places for dialogue and discovery. If we allow ourselves to see that church is more than a building where we meet, many things are possible. Once we grasp the notion that when all pilgrims come together to pray, to sing, to play, to dialogue,  or to work, we are grasping an opportunity to be the church.

It is best summed up in the Holy Meal. When we break bread together at worship we are a reflection of the body of Christ. It is this act that we are reminded that we bring all of ourselves to the table. We bring ‘ourselves, our souls and bodies.’ We bring that that is good and strong in our character and we bring all of our brokenness as well. When we look around the table, we see that every manner of humanity shares in the Holy Meal. At the moment of the fracture sentence when we acknowledge the broken body of Christ, we acknowledge our own brokenness and pray for the courage to journey on, with brothers and sisters who share our woundedness.

This image of the last supper was published in The Catholic Worker in 1951. This image shows Christ at a round table. This is intentional as it removes the need for special or hierarchical seating. It is multi-cultural. The twelve come from ‘every race and nation.’ It sees no age, there are young and old alike in here. Economic status is not a factor. Sadly, there are only men around this table. I suspect if Eichenberg were sketching this today and not in 1951, there would be men and women around the table. The spirit of this work is really rooted in the idea that all manner of human being is welcomed at the table. As we gather on a Sunday or on a Wednesday (or on whatever day is customary for you to gather) we can look around the table and hopefully see that we all bring our own gifts and challenges to the table.

Nourished at that table and driven by the Spirit’s desire for us to do God’s work, we push back from the table and seek to respond to what we are called to do in Christ Jesus our Lord. Pushing back from the table we leave to seek and serve Christ in others. We look to be the church by striving for peace and for unity and by respecting the dignity of all people. And when we go to church we get to see that we do not have to do that work alone.

5 thoughts on “What is the Point of Church-going?

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  1. I go to church for the joy, the inspiration, the friendship, the humility (to be challenged in my not-so-right thinking and attitudes at times) and also with the knowledge that I am not alone in believing in Jesus Christ. Sometimes I go wanting to feel acknowledged. Often I feel compelled to help others, to be part of something much bigger than myself. If I were to miss a Sunday or a Wednesday at St. Mark’s, I would feel that something is missing in my life.

  2. It has taken me years to understand why I go to church. I spent twelve years in a parochial school environment that was concerned about making sure I knew all the “right” answers about God and religion. I went to church every day from grade 1 through grade 8 and then every Sunday for the next four years. Then during the next few years my church attendance decreased to only a few times a year, Christmas, Easter, marriages, funerals, baptisms, etc. Going to church just didn’t do anything for me. I don’t know what I expected to happen but obviously it didn’t happen. Then when I wasn’t looking for God, He found me. During the past year I have learned that what is important is developing a relationship with God. Scripture tells us that the greatest commandment is to love God with our whole heart. The way we learn to love is by developing relationships. I found that loving God is no different and requires development of a relationship with Him. Going to church and worshipping with others that are also in a relationship with God enhances my relationship with God and allows me to love Him. That’s why I go to church.

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