I do not want to go to church tomorrow. There. I said it.
I already announced, at a potluck last night, that I would not be going. My reasons? Because I CAN take the day off. After at least two years as co-chair of the worship committee in a church which relies heavily on lay leaders to conduct the weekly worship, on this Sunday, I have no real responsibilities.
And I had such conviction about not going. My husband has a golf date with an uncle he sees but once a year. I have housework and work-work to do. I want to furnish the home office that has been built for a year, but cluttered with unusuable furniture, paper, and NO filing cabinets.
Yesterday, I didn’t feel the need to go to church because I was there, taking the collection on Sunday, when one of the congregants urged us to make an announcement about the Tennessee shootings. I was there, on Monday, when we held our own vigil, in memory and in solidarity and in awe of all of those people who showed the world and continue to show the world what being Unitarian Universalist looks like: courage plus compassion.
You know, the story that struck me most, beyond Greg McKendry’s bravery, was when I heard that as soon as the shots started, one of the older children gathered the younger ones and led them out. Others were injured trying to shield children and seniors. This we do, I thought, we help usher and we put up shields “for the least of these.”
Our minister will be in the pulpit tomorrow, which gives me the confidence to take the day off. He will handle the things that need to be handled around the sermon. And so, I think, I will take the day off. I have “churched” enough this week, I tell myself. Vigil on Monday, leadership meeting on Wednesday, potluck on Friday. I’ve put in my time, haven’t I?
And then we got an email from the new-ish member who will lead the before-church discussion group, using the Book of Job. I want to support him. I want to support the initiative to challenge us to look at Biblical stories with wonder, not with derision. I want to support his ownership of our church, of his commitment to challenging us.
I just don’t want to go to church.
And then the minister sent along an email, asking us to remember that we are a church of “whole” worship, and that our worship will include children, and inviting people to share their sorrow about Tennessee, but to remember to be gentle, remember who else is in the room.
And then it hits me: I must go to church on Sunday. To do otherwise, it seems now, is hollow self-indulgence.
I am standing. Others are not. I must go for them. In memory of them, in honor of them. I must show that there is no fear worth losing your faith over.
In the midst of this week, I went to the dentist. The hygenist and I were talking about a variety of things, but she told me how some people come in her office just reeking of decay and they don’t realize that they’ve been walking around with this stuff in their mouth for years–until she starts stirring it up as she cleans their teeth and gums. “What is that,” they say, and then she tells me she has even had people spit gunk out onto the floor.
I’m aghast at this, as is she, and then the discussion turns to just how people are about things happening to them. And then she utters this pearl, so obvious, so well-known, so oft-forgotten: “It’s all how you respond to things, isn’t it?”
The night before, I’d driven home listening to Forrest Church’s GA presentation from his new book, and it brought me great comfort. His response to the reality of his terminal cancer is not “why” but “what do we do next?”
How do we respond?
We go to church. We remember why we go to church–not because it is convenient or because we are obligated–but because we want to be tangibly connected to something larger than ourselves.
We are not in Tennessee, but we can be with our own congregations on Sunday, standing up for a faith tradition that stands up for everyone–even those who do bad, even evil, things. And we sing and we pray and we learn again that we are small, but our faith is not. We are the Whos in Whoville, who sing Christmas songs, even though the presents are gone. We don’t go to church because we have to, we go because we can. And, sometimes, we even go because we must.