ANSWERING MY OWN QUESTIONS
Rev. Dr. Robert R. LaRochelle
As many of you know, I recently wrote an article in this space in which I asked people to give feedback to me as to why they either attend or stay away from religious services. The outpouring of responses was really incredible and I thank you who contributed for being part of this conversation.
As any reader knows by now, I happen to be a pastor of a church (Second Congregational, UCC, in Manchester). As a result, going to church on Sundays is part of my life. It is most certainly fair to say that I believe it is of great value in my life and also that it is freely chosen.
Now while you might expect a minister to value participating in church services, it is important to understand a very simple fact: There are reasons why a person finds meaning and worth in this activity. These reasons cut far deeper than having the obligations that come with being a pastor. They are rooted in the depth of one’s heart.
So, in this brief piece of writing, I want to try to respond
to my own questions and have you take a look at a few reasons I give for why I
find meaning in attending services of worship, a meaning I found well before I
decided to get ordained and serve in my current capacity in a church. NOTE:
These are my opinions, based on my experiences, told as directly as I can tell
1. I find that being in church exposes me to a wide range of stories that constitute
the Bible. In my Christian faith, I like the fact that by being in church, I
hear a lot about what Jesus said, did and taught. Please don’t get me wrong---I know people can read the Bible outside of church. I just think that the church year with its built in cycle- Advent, Christmas, Lent and Easter, for example, provides established opportunities to be deeply immersed and to pick up on things I otherwise might not.
2. I find a value in celebrating the life cycle within a church community- births,
baptisms, adolescence, confirmation, marriage, times for healing, services to
thanksgiving for those who have died----I deeply appreciate the community bond that develops between and among people in religious congregations as they grow to navigate life, connected with each other.
3. I find that congregations are unique places in that there is opportunity to discover a unity among people despite the fact that they may be different. Local religious communities are often places in which people are joined together who might not necessarily have the same interests as one another, but they are bonded by something that is really deeper. Were it not for the connection with the
church, they might not ever know each other. Connected to a church, they
journey into life’s deepest mysteries with opportunities to do that together. It’s
kind of neat!
Now, don’t get me wrong here. My answers merely scratch the surface. Not
only that, but I understand that they paint an idealistic picture. People will
tell you horror stories of bad preaching and teaching in local churches and the
awful ways in which the Bible is used by some to divide people from one
another. I know as well that some congregations go through periods where they
seem lifeless and where the buildings are nothing more places to go to meet
what one perceives as a religious obligation.
BUT...I am an idealist and I believe that Christian churches, for example, can be
places which live up to lofty ideals (I believe this of other religious traditions
as well!)---of people honestly seeking God’s purpose for their lives, of
individuals united, despite their differences-united to serve others and to make of God’s world the world God wants....
I could go on at greater length, but I just wanted to take a bit of time to let you in on my thinking...and to encourage us to continue to talk.
Pastor Bob writes regularly for Manchester
Patch. He serves as pastor at Second Congregational Church, UCC, in Manchester-
(still developing web site)
He has authored three books, including the recently released SO MUCH OLDER THEN.