I am far from the only one wishing more people would go to church these days. There is an eloquent example in a Jan. 28 New Yorker letter. The writer, Hannah Bowman, works for the abolition of prisons. She writes: “Church attendance is lower than ever, especially among young people; prison abolition offers the kind of concrete connection missing from faith that if rediscovered, would make it worth getting up on Sunday morning again.”
Certainly, churches could do better with social justice. However, if you want to think and act on such issues, a church can provide opportunity and support. My church, Holy Trinity Episcopal Church, is very active working with prisons, the homeless, the neighborhood, the arts, etc. Many other churches are, too. And just being in a place with other people who are concerned with the good of the world, and where one can discuss it, is invigorating.
I feel invigorated, healed, stimulated and loved because of my church. The core spirit of faith and worship makes these feelings strong and secure. Although I love my church, I recognize that many other churches and religions offer spiritual strength and love. So, to the people, young and otherwise, not currently attending church — to whom this article is first and foremost addressed — please get out there and share spirituality with others. It will change your life for the good.
Be careful, however. A church, or perhaps a cult, may preach fear. But, the Bible says God is love. It says, “Do not fear, for you are written in the book of life.”
A great reason to go to church and bring up children in a church is learning about the Bible. At a very low point, someone in my church gave me the Living Bible. It is a paraphrase in beautiful, understandable language. As I read the New Testament through, the parables, words and actions of Jesus moved me to the core and made my life better.
There are shocking statistics about how few people today even know the names of the four gospels. It is important to know the stories in the Bible. They are a huge part of our heritage. Without them, one cannot understand literature, art or history. These stories come to mind in difficult situations and provide guidance.
A friend told me a wonderful example. She had been told she could not have children. So she prayed to God, in similar words to these, “Lord, you gave Sarah a child when she could not have them. You gave your son to die for our sins. You can give me a child. I want a daughter, and I want her by the time I am 30.” Just before her 30th birthday, she became pregnant and had a healthy daughter. I know this story is true. I witnessed her severe trouble with her uterus, which she lost while young. If she had not known these stories, from both the Old and New Testament, she could not have prayed her prayer with the faith that she did.
Jesus said often, “Your faith has healed you.” My cat had an incurable disease. She was very sick. One day, I said out loud into the open air, “Lord, you can heal anyone. You can heal a cat.” She was healed instantly. There are witnesses, including our veterinarian. Later, another cat had terrible allergies. I said, “Lord, you healed Harmony, you can heal Mojo.” Mojo was healed instantly. If I had not read the Bible, how would I know with such certainty that God heals through faith?
It would take a book to go into all the benefits of going to church. One learns morality. One finds help with life situations. One prays with others. One finds profound peace, or, as we say in our church, “the peace that passes all understanding.” One makes friends for life. One is blessed with wonderful potlucks, feasts and snacks. Holy Trinity introduced me to a delicious meal that is now a beloved staple at our home: humus with tapenade on warm locally-baked brown bread.
What a blessing it is to go to church.
• Page Bridges is a member of Holy Trinity Episcopal Church. “Living Growing” is a weekly column written by different authors and submitted by local clergy and spiritual leaders.