Thursday, August 26, 2010

Which church would you choose?

Michelle Van Loon asked a thought-provoking question on her blog, theparablelife

Q: Would you drive 45+ minutes to attend an ideal church service each week or would you become a part of a church community with whom you differed on some points of doctrine and practice right in your own backyard? 

After reading the article, I posted a comment. I've expanded it slightly here:

Funny you should mention it, but we drive 45 minutes each way to attend an Anglican church. While I've acquired a new appreciation for sacramentalism and the combination of deeply moving truth and quiet sanity in the Book of Common Prayer, while we feel a deep spiritual kinship with certain people, while we believe its leaders are doing some good things that others leave undone, while we've heard some great sermons there, and while we've been richly blessed by some of the music,* those aren't the most important things that drew us to this church, and they certainly aren't what keep us coming back week after week.

We keep coming back because our son is not only tolerated, but welcomed. Despite his challenges, they work with him so he can serve as an acolyte. When Children's Church wasn't working out for him, but he wasn't able to sit through the regular service, (He still isn't, most Sundays) several men in the church volunteered to take turns sitting with him during the service and taking him for a walk if he needed it, so we could have opportunities to worship. That's worked out remarkably well. I need to post about it soon.

So what's not to like? Well, as you mentioned, it is harder to form close connections with people you only see once a week. There are churches within walking distance of our house. Most of their members live in the neighborhood, and most of their children attend the local schools. Some of the adult members even work in  our small town, although many of them work in larger cities. Those are the people we see every day. But this is the first church that we've been in that expressed the sentiment, "We're all in this together. We need him as much as he needs us." rather than, "Hey, you! Straighten up your kid!"

Once you leave the immediate neighborhood, we've found it's not absolute distance but relative distance that determines how hard it is to be involved beyond Sunday morning. Whoever plans activities tends to base their plans on what works for people traveling the average distance to church. In some congregations, that's five minutes, in some, 20-30, in others, 45 or more. If you live the average distance or closer, you'll probably feel right in the thick of things, surrounded by friends. If you live farther away, it will take an extra effort, and one that no one notices, to be involved at all, and sometimes you will be left out. If you have a child with a disability, there will be some activities that are not worth the added effort, and some you just can't do. We have decided that in this case, the added effort for some activities is worth it. We've also made an effort to make personal contact outside church-sponsored events when we could.

*(I'll never forget the offertory on the first Sunday of Advent one year: "The Man Comes Around." The hairs on my arm still stand up every time I think of it. On the other hand, I'm sorry, but 417 choruses of "I Could Sing of Your Love Forever" are at least 414 choruses too many.)

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Blogger Arby said...

You are facing a very real challenge in selecting a church. I'd say it is worth the commute. The bigger question is, is it worth moving closer?

August 27, 2010 at 4:13 PM  
Blogger Mama Bear said...

You're right it's a big question. In this case I work close enough to ride my bike to work & Papa Bear's folks live only 10 minutes away. I love our small town. I don't think the medium sized city our church is in would be idea for GL. And of I hate cities of any size, I put up with our small town because it's necessary.

August 27, 2010 at 5:34 PM  

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