I don’t go to church much anymore


I don’t go to church much anymore, and haven’t attended regularly since 1980, when I stopped being a church member altogether.

I have mostly good memories of going to church, but for most of my adult life I have worked on Sundays.

So, occasionally – on vacation, for example – I’ll wake up on Sunday and think about going to church. But going to church sure seems a lot harder than it used to be.

For one thing, going to church means getting up and getting out of the house on a day off. I had thought about hiking one of western Michigan’s many scenic trails this morning with my brand-new hiking boots, which I’m really excited about, but instead I showered and got dressed.

Next, there was deciding what to wear.

Really, what do people wear to church these days? I haven’t gone to church in such a long time that I haven’t had to think about the question. In the end I opted for shorts, but almost immediately felt uncomfortable, even though most of the other men, as it turned out, were also wearing shorts.

My mom and dad used to say that I should dress for church the way I would dress to go to the White House and meet the President. In older adulthood, apparently, I have a hard time not following that direction.

Singing was also much harder than I expected. I love to sing, but I should point out that loving to sing is different from singing well. It would be more accurate to write that I love to sing when no one, except maybe God and my granddaughter, can hear me.

I knew the first hymn – “Be Thou My Vision” – and started singing it enthusiastically, as though for God’s and my granddaughter’s enjoyment, only to discover that no one around me was singing. Not a single person. For a couple of stanzas I tried to create some musical excitement around me, but finally gave up when a couple of people turned around to find out what the croaking toad behind them looked like.

And then there was the message.

Now, I know a little about the degree of difficulty involved in preaching, so I was willing to give a lot of bonus points for sincerity and effort and conviction. But not even a lot of sincerity and effort and conviction can make listening bearable for 25 minutes.

I thought about leaving during the last hymn, but noticed that a large group near me was already doing that. Maybe they were late for their brunch reservations. Instead, I decided – heroically – to stay all the way through the Benediction.

Will I be going to church next Sunday? I think so. I have a whole new level of respect for those who do it.

(Photo: That’s the inside of a church in Lucerne, Switzerland.)

About Doug

I have been a writer ever since fifth grade when I won second prize in a “prose and poetry” contest. I am also a Presbyterian pastor, and for several years toward the end of my career I lived and worked in Zürich, Switzerland. I am now retired and live just north of Holland, Michigan, along the lake.

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3 Responses to I don’t go to church much anymore

  1. Daril Lee Lev August 11, 2014 at 5:38 am #

    I don’t like Churches that Still use Traditional hymns. They are filled with Seniors, who are stuck in their ways.

  2. Carter August 11, 2014 at 5:29 pm #

    It is difficult to respond to a post where, even if at this moment in time, the Headline echoes a short term choice I have made more recently than 1980, but that I feel confident is merely temporary.

    I love church. I love everything about it. But what I love even more is my family. To get someone to go to where you love, Jesus taught us, something I learned at church, it is not only best to go to where they are and invite them, but to stay for a while and see why they are where they are

    Don’t worry that it is a slippery slope. Have confidence that God wants you to find your way home. He is willing to wait, according to the bible, “he does not tarry,” stay with those you love and see together your path back to just where God has always wanted you to be

    I hope that path leads back to church. God not only has many mansions, but he has many people who love their families, living in those homes

    The church is a place where a lot of folks hang out who love their families and collectively God’s family to boot

    Thanks for the post Doug!

    • Doug August 11, 2014 at 6:23 pm #

      Good to hear from you, Carter. I suppose the headline was a bit more provocative than I at first imagined. I got close to a thousand hits with it, though, and in the blogosphere that’s really what matters. Am glad that you’re focused on your family, my friend.