Sunday, January 23, 2011

Are we the best of choices?

Reflecting on church attendance while I lay on my couch getting IV antibiotics, and of course, ironically, missing church....
Maybe I was spoiled. I was raised in a Southern Baptist family that made Sunday morning church attendance mandatory. We had a fun youth group at University Baptist, and SS was usually tolerable, church maybe not so much but we knew we had to go, so we did. Like many, I used college to escape from such obligations, but getting married and having children brought me back.
Thank goodness my wife is an Episcopalian, and while the story of how we made it back to the Episcopal church is one for another time, I can say that we were spoiled. Why? Because at St. Peter's by the Lake we found a church that was just, well, awesome. As I learned what it meant to be an Episcopalian, I was fortunate to be formed by the founding Rector of that church, Arnold Bush, who showed me and my Baptist heart that Episcopal Priests (and people!) could be evangelists! And I was shown by his successor, Barry Cotter, that Episcopal Priests could be excellent preachers. But more than that, I was shown by a community of faith what it meant to be the body of Christ, people who cared and prayed and worshipped and partied and laughed and grieved and fed and showed up for each other.
I am not sure I can say when the change happened for us, but eventually Jennifer and I became those people who showed up every time the doors opened - but not ever out of some sense of obligation, or feeling that if we didn't "do this" no one else would, but rather simply because it was the best of choices for us and our kids. We chose church on Sunday mornings over soccer or tennis, we chose special services over the myriad of other options, we chose work days over sleeping in and we chose renewal weekends over parties and we chose great times on the reservoir party boat with other church folks over, well, over anything else. It wasn't just about God and the Spirit, it was about community. And it was about living into the idea that doing for others is actually not just rewarding but fun, and working "inside" the church was not just important but life-giving. Cursillo renewal helped me in that, I think, teaching me so much about joy and service and the Spirit, perhaps we need more of that. But all that just kind of evolved over time, looking back I can see it, but in the midst of it, it really felt like the best choice was not a choice at all, but something we were joyously led to by the Holy Spirit.

I want that for our folks. I want us to be the "best choice". Because the truth is, it is all about choices. Sometimes we are overwhelmed, bombarded by options, or fall into the trap of the "obvious because this is what everyone does" kind of choice. But in the end, a worshipping community of caring people, dedicated to serving Christ in others, I believe, is the "best choice".
It's not perfect every Sunday. We don't always hit it out of the park. That's because we are human. But in the end, the first step is choosing to show up and see where the Spirit leads - new ideas of ministry, ways to form our children in the faith (is there anything more important?), ancient prayers and wonderful sacraments and great music. Saying by our presence - this really IS the best choice, and I too will commit time and talent and treasure to make it so for all of us.
Are you looking for a place like that? If so, I hope we can grow into just that, together. For those already along for the ride - God bless you for helping us live into being the best choice.

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