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Sunday, December 5, 2010

Church attendance

I got here at 7:30 this morning. In an hour or so about 85-100 people will begin filing into the church building to worship. At 11:00 a similar number will do the same. Last evening we saw over 40. Normal weekends 215-235 people are here. Statistically, we are normal. About four in ten of our members show up each week. Sixty percent of those who say, "St. Andrews is my church" do not show up.

Does it matter if people show up? Does our relationship with God really need a church? I am of two minds. On the one hand I am a priest. I became a priest because I think going to church and being church matters a great deal. It matters enough that I have committed most of my adult life to this work. I am self aware enough to know that it is also my job. I support my family on this work so there is another reason why I want to see the church thrive. On the other hand I know that "going to church" on Sunday can simply be a mindless activity. Most people have quit going because even when they were going it probably did not make an impact on their lives.

But in the end, if the church is the sacrament of Jesus, then the work of the church is the work of Christ in the world. The primary way that Jesus does things today is in and through the church. We are "the Body of Christ" as St. Paul says. The problem is church members who view the church as something they do when it is convenient. Or the church is where they go to "get something." Worshipping God is not always fun. Does God deserve an hour or two of thanks and praise? Is He diminished when we sleep in? I do think He deserves worship but I do not think He needs it. I do however think we need it. I do believe God draws near a people who love and honor Him. I do believe God withdraws from a people who do not do this.

My guess is the world would be different if the people of the church acted like church. In my imagination I can see all 500 of our people crammed into this place for multiple services. I can imagine them radically generous with their time, talent and treasure. I can see this as a place which makes a huge impact in the lives of other people, especially broken people. I can imagine children growing up in an environmnent where hope and joy are present. I think it would be better and I think it is possible. But I also know that all of us, myself included, are not terribly adept at making God the center of our lives. So this morning I plan to pray for the desire to love and serve God, in me and in you and in them. It isn't much, but it is a start.

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