Sunday, January 13, 2013
I get up very early on Sunday mornings to get to church in time to set it all up. Part of what makes that actually pleasant is that I listen to eTown which airs from 7-8am on Sunday mornings here. In a lot of ways, eTown feels like church to me. There is good, soulful music that frequently has a social or uplifting message. There is conversation with the artists, usually focused on what inspires them and what their mission is. They also honor someone every week with the "e-chievement award" and discuss the justice or environmental work that person does.
This feels like church to me. I'm uplifted and inspired, moved, challenged, comforted. So should I just get up and listen to the radio in the morning and then go home?
Of course not (even setting aside that not showing up to work would be a bad idea). It wouldn't be enough, because passively listening to the radio is not Doing Church.
Listening is part of Church. But, in much the same way that going into nature alone is not Doing Church either, listening and not having to give something back to those around you is a completely different experience and only half (or less) of the equation that is Church.
When we Do Church, we take our place in a community. It means interacting with other people. It means being open to experiencing the jagged peaks and valleys of other peoples' lives, as they bring into the church their greatest Joys and Sorrows. It means passing a tissue to a woman who is crying during the sermon, even though you have no idea why she has been moved to tears. It means singing the Birthday Song for the 6 year old and the 98 year old at the same time. It means signing up for cookie service and for the march on the capitol building. It means that new ideas will challenge you. Sometimes you will change your mind, sometimes you will just have to agree to disagree. It means offering to hold the baby for a little bit, or holding the door open for the elder with a cane. It means being challenged to explain what you think and believe and who you are to other people, who are also engaged in thinking about what they believe and who they are.
Listening to the radio on my way to church is important to me, but it cannot be the whole experience. For me, as a Religious Educator, the radio show replaces what I missed in the worship service. But all the rest of it ... all the unpredictable, messy, human parts of it, are the real heart and soul of Church for me.