Why I go to church (this week)

by eringoodman on March 9, 2014

in essays+reflections

This morning I attended my beloved Unitarian Universalist church.

This may not seem significant, or blog-worthy, except that it’s been well over a year since I have attended Sunday services and so today I found myself reflecting on what I love about being part of a UU church community.

I love the energy of gathering.

Today, despite “losing an hour” of sleep, I arrived early and sat in the center of the gathering energy — the welcoming committee at the door greeting each arrival, the choir rehearsing one last time before service starts, friends hugging and catching up. It’s such a beautiful energy of excitement and anticipation.

I love the ritual.

Our church service begins with the sounding of a singing bowl. I love that the bustle of gathering instantly quiets as the bowl is sounded, the energy of gathering giving way to the energy of settling and being present. Without words, information is conveyed that it is now time to begin our worship service.

I love the community.

Announcements at the beginning of service, flyers hanging on the bulletin board in the community room. I love the people and their interests and all of the magical events and gatherings that spin out of this vibrant community.

I love the choir.

Whether I’m singing in the choir or sitting back in the audience, tapping my toes and taking in the beautiful music, I love how the presence of a choir elevates the mood and invites sacred transcendence into the room.

I love the religious education program.

I love that the RE program is a place for children and youth to be seen and celebrated for who they are and that they are exposed to the world’s major religions and spiritual thinkers while being encouraged to follow their own path.

I love that all are welcome.

I love being part of a UU church where all are welcome. I love the huge rainbow flag that hangs by the front door and all it represents as well as the fact that everyone who gathers together is encouraged to follow (and share about) his or her own personal spiritual path.

I love coming home.

People often refer to our church community as family and for me the experience is much the same. I love that our church is a place of eternal welcome, where I can slide away for a few weeks (or several months) and always be welcomed back with open arms and a warm embrace.

* * *

All of this is true, my friends. And yet, I still wander and go for long stretches without attending services.

Why?

Because sometimes I don’t feel like going to church. Sometimes I’d rather take a hike or attend a yoga class or snuggle up on the couch with my children. Sometimes life gets crazy and getting to church becomes one more thing that has to be done, one more day that an alarm must be set, and I find other ways to nurture my spirituality.

I find ritual in making a pot of tea and transcendence in the way the light hits the floor and community in a Sunday afternoon potluck.

For me the important thing is not how I nurture my spirituality (and that of my children) but that I do make space to nurture our spirituality — at home, in nature, or with our church community.

How about you, my friends? Do you go to church (temple or synagogue) regularly, occasionally or not at all? How is this working for you and your family? Please share and inspire us with your words.

 

{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

Shel March 9, 2014 at 5:08 pm

I love this post, Erin! I grew up in the UCC Church (and we’re raising the girls in that denomination as well) and I love how many similarities there are between the UU and UCC Churches! I did not grow up in a family that went to church each week. I grew up with parents (especially my mother) who felt that you did not need to be in a church building in order to worship or be spiritual. I love that she instilled us with the notion that you can be anywhere to worship (and that the higher power can be whatever you perceive him or her to be). There have definitely been periods of time in my life where I don’t attend church as regularly as usual but I know that no matter what, whenever I return it’s just like coming home. xo

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eringoodman March 9, 2014 at 5:30 pm

Isn’t that a nice feeling, Shel? Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

xo

~Erin

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Shel March 9, 2014 at 8:16 pm

It really is, Erin! And, in my humble opinion, I think it makes it more of a whole life experience instead of just a Sunday morning experience! :)

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Sherry March 9, 2014 at 8:16 pm

Erin, I miss our UU as well. When I go, often times I find that at the end when everyone stands in a circle holding hands and singing that parting song, I was moved to tears. It always felt like my spiritual home as well. Someday, when life is not sooooo busy, we will both be there more frequently, but isn’t it lovely that we can come and go as we please and not feel as though we SHOULD have been there every week? (dislike that word!!!)
So thankful.

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eringoodman March 9, 2014 at 8:44 pm

Yes, the closing song hits me every time. Especially when we squeeze hands at the very end. I am also moved when the children go down to RE and we all sing them down. So powerful.

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Lisa March 12, 2014 at 10:21 pm

This is such a beautiful ode. Thank you for sharing it.

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eringoodman March 26, 2014 at 1:18 pm

You are very welcome, Lisa. Thank you for stopping by to read it.

xo

~Erin

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Martha March 13, 2014 at 11:32 am

Erin, this is lovely.

I too, am a UU. It feels like such a blessing to have a community like this to come to, a real spiritual “home.” I have attended regularly for a number of years now, coming back after a long hiatus in my 20′s and 30′s. All the things you love about it, I love too.

I encourage you, with all your gifts (and when the time is right for you to make a greater commitment) to become an active part in your congregation. At my church, we have quite a few drop-in-and-out attendees, and they are always welcome. But to keep our community strong, vibrant, and evolving it is crucial that we have as many people as possible add their talents and contributions to the mix on a regular basis.

Your blog is terrific. Thanks for being there!

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eringoodman March 26, 2014 at 1:25 pm

Thank you for your kind note, Martha.

I definitely understand what you are saying and I hope to become more involved and a regular member of the community like I once was, rather than just a drop in guest every so often. (Though I appreciate, as you say, that drop ins are always welcome.)

Thank you again for your nice words.

Warmly,
Erin

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Natasha April 11, 2014 at 2:07 pm

Thank Erin! I have been intending to check out the Unitarian Church in my neighboring city. This is great encouragement!

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Madhuri April 29, 2014 at 10:00 pm

Hey there, when I first got pregnant I didn’t even tell my pntaers or his for several days and then we waited to tell the majority of people until I was past the first three months I didn’t want to jinx it somehow and have a miscarriage, but I did want to get past that first part and I was barely showing at that point and I went in and got into a maternity outfit and put a pillow in there and made my grand entrance it was mother’s day of all times when we told all of the rest of our family and friends good luck

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