I was having a conversation with a new couple at church yesterday and the inevitable question came up: How long have you been attending Messiah? It’s been 11 years now.
That’s insane. Nobody my age commits to anything (much less a church) for that long. I’m already part of the old-guard. I remember the previous rector (that’s Episcopalian for pastor). I remember what the building was like before the addition. I’ve earned the right to protest, “But that’s how we’ve always done it!”
That conversation made me think about why we’ve stuck it out at Messiah for so long.
Much of it has to do with the people. Some smart folks say that friendships are what keep people in church, and I’m inclined to agree. We tried to fit in at our previous church, tried to move beyond being college students to being regulars, but it never quite took. When we taught Sunday School and the parents didn’t know our names we decided it was time to move on.
But we found those relationships at Messiah. It helped that there were plenty of social dinners organized where you were encouraged to get to know people. I remember several rounds of dinners like that at various people’s houses that slowly pulled us in. It also helped when we were invited over for dinner on Easter Sunday. Who invites people over for dinner on Easter Sunday at the last minute? Really nice people, that’s who. People who understand a young married couple with no family in town.
The other thing I like about my church is the diversity. Now I’ll be honest: We’re mostly a bunch of white folks. We don’t quite have the racial diversity. But that’s changing (it’s much more prevalent at the earlier service with an explosion of KaRen). But we do have other diversity. There’s a huge mix of ages (110 kids in 5th grade or under, in a church of 300!) and styles. On Sunday morning you’re sure to hear both an organ and an electric guitar. You’ll also see someone in jeans, a T-shirt and sandals next to someone in a suit and tie.
All that diversity in and of itself doesn’t mean a lot. But it does tell me that the people are able to value what’s different and get along despite disagreements. Nobody is up in arms over the drums or the 18th century hymns, demanding we change to suit their needs. That sounds ridiculous, but I grew up in atmosphere where it was common.
Finally, I was drawn to the liturgy. Growing up in an independent church less than 40 years old, there was no sense of history. There was no connection to the wider faith that went all the way back to Christ. We were somehow disconnected and adrift, which was painfully obvious anytime a pastor left. At Messiah, I was shocked when the rector left without any controversy.
But the liturgy, those words repeated by Christians all over the world and throughout time, well, you can’t avoid that connection. It’s deep. It’s powerful. There’s a danger of it becoming too familiar, but I’ll gladly take that danger than the disconnected prattling of someone in a suit trying their best to sound spiritual and only accomplishing saying ‘Lord’ and ‘Jesus’ every few words.
I could go on. Everybody has their own reasons for sticking with a church, moving on, or giving up. But those are the ones that came to mind when I reflected on why I’ve been here for over a decade.
What about you? Why do you like your church?