Friday, October 11, 2013

In the House

I grew up going to church 52 Sundays a year. It’s not that my parents were particularly religious. They actually were not at all. They just happened to have discovered free childcare for their brood for a few hours on a weekend morning. Other parents in the neighborhood caught on and sent theirs as well. My friends and I were all in the house Sunday every morning.

Strangely, that pattern remained with me in adulthood. I could not wait until I graduated high school and thus liberated from forced church attendance. When I went to college, Sundays were spent recovering from Saturdays. However, something had been planted deeply within that beckoned me to continue freely. My first inclination upon matriculating in graduate school in the land where the devil is blue was to attend high church service at the campus chapel on Sundays. At the urging of some well-intentioned classmates, I eventually began attending service at a church across town of my predominantly black then-denomination.

After graduation, I returned to Washington, DC and began attending my conservative childhood church again on a regular basis. After two years in the south, it no longer fit. God led me to another congregation in the city that resembled the style of churches in the Bible Belt where everyone seemed to know God’s middle name.

Eventually, things fell apart there as a result of my pastor’s sexual harassment and the congregation’s betrayal of me with its indifference. The last thing I wanted to do at the time was attend church every Sunday. I would go to the gym, ride my bike for long distances, visit  farmers’ markets, check out a museum exhibit—anything but church.

But there are some dresses that are too fancy for work and too casual for after-five. Where would I wear them? Seriously, I loved praising God and studying His word. But what was passing for church became revolting.

Then God revealed to me that there is no requirement to attend church Every. Single. Sunday. Yes, the bible says forsake not the assembling of ourselves as is the habit of some (Hebrews 10:25). That passage was written to a community in despair as they were under persecution for their faith. It was not a prescription for overdosing on organized religion. Society has misconstrued the primary function of Christianity as assembled public worship as opposed to serving and discipling the world.

I still have my seasons of weekly church attendance, interspersed with periods of worship in the world. It bothers some of my friends, church members, and neighbors to see me skipping church. It’s not that they fear for my soul’s salvation, but rather are uncomfortable with how their own religious constructs are being challenged. Altars can be found wherever God has created.

The hymn “How Great Thou Art” opens:
O Lord My God!
When I in awesome wonder
Consider all the works thy hands have made
I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder
Thy power throughout the universe displayed

The chorus follow with:
Then sings my soul, My savior God to Thee
How great Thou art, How great thou art!
Then sings my soul, My savior God to Thee
How great Thou art, How great thou art!

When Job became confounded spiritually, God did not tell him to go to the priests or prophets. The Lord commanded him to speak to the earth and she will teach you (Job 12:8). There comes a time in every person’s life when they need an unmediated word from God. There’s no money in that, so churches tend not to promote such ministries.

I defy you to go to the mountains and not be filled with admiration for God’s handiwork or stare at the stars and not revere the order in the universe. When I need a fresh revelation, I go to a new place all by myself and He never fails to deliver.

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