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.)