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Why do I go to church?

Viewpoint with Cynthia McCarthy, Amherst First Baptist Church

We were visiting with friends. Pleasant conversation wound around the kitchen table. At a certain point, someone was moved to declare: "You can be a good person without going to church." 

"Absolutely!" my response.  And the conversation moved on in other directions.

That afternoon while out for my long walk, the words came back to me: "You can be a good person without going to church." 

So why do I go to church? It seemed as fine a subject as any to ponder on my stroll.

The conversation with myself went something like this:

 I go to church to worship, praise, commune.

--- BUT you could do that in your own home, beside a forest stream or under a night sky.

And I do. But coming here, this is God's house...

---- Isn't God in your house too? And isn't your very body God's temple?

Well yes. But coming to this place is special. This building recalls the ancient tent or portable tabernacle that was believed to literally house God.  Here I feel connection to those earliest seeds of our faith.

---- So is that why you come to church?

That's just the beginning. I come for scripture reading too.

---- You can read that at home.

And I do. But much of our Bible was originally intended to be read aloud. Hearing it read or sung,  in community adds a whole rich layer that I miss on my own.

---- So is that why you come to church?

Well, then there's the sermon or message; some insight, vision or question that calls me that little bit further along in this journey, this seeking, this answering the pull from deep inside, that we all respond to in different ways... Yup. That's a big reason for coming to church.

----- Are you done? Have you figured out why you go to church?

Well I have to circle back to that original prompt: "You can be a good person without going to church".   I don't think I go to church to "be a good person"...  I go to church to be a better person.

--- Better than other people?

Of course not! Better than I was - last week, or last year. Further along on my own path. Coming to church is coming to practice; to practice seeing  God in new ways. It happens through the elements of a worship service as much as through the challenges  we are offered here to work together, even, and maybe especially,  in  our disagreements. We come to practice Love.  And that can only be for the better.

My walk complete and my question somewhat resolved, I was encouraged by this passage from the book of Hebrews:

24 Let us be concerned for one another, to help one another to show love and to do good. 25 Let us not give up the habit of meeting together, as some are doing. Instead, let us encourage one another all the more... Hebrews 10:24-25

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