Oh my, this is the thing to say here in Washington state. "Oh, we don't really do the church thing, I'm spiritual and everything, but not, you know... religious."
I hear this from families and emptynesters. It's what all the cool kids are saying.
But why on earth would you want the magical dance of spirituality without the fabulous gift that is church life? I know, it's not perfect. my friend Barbara Cornell says that everyone has baggage, but people come to church and unpack. And it's true. There is hubris and elitism and snobbery and discrimination and gossip at church. People treat each other poorly sometimes and we don't always remember the very core of our faith--whichever faith that may be.
That's just the thing. We come to church with our whole broken, messy, screwed-up selves and still, we are loved. We are reminded again and again that we are whole and holy and good, and not just by the person who is ordained. No, in fact I think we are more often reminded by the person who reaches for our hand when we are moved to tears, by the crew of teens who help us move heavy things without being asked, by the small child who shares with us a cupcake because they are "so good you HAVE to have one" and by the people who forgive us again and again and again for our messed-up, screwed-up, completely imperfect selves.
Church takes some of the muddy crud of our human selves and washes it away, or plants good seeds in it, or just sits with us while we wallow in it for a while. Or, really, the people of church do that.
Even more, they bring soup when we're sick and sit with us when we're at the hospital waiting with scary news on the other side of the door, they email and ask how we are after a bad spell and they will drive our children to and from preschool so we can make it through another week of battling a horrible disease.
Yes, I do I love the spiritual kick of hiking to a vista of beauty, or seeing whales in the ocean. I love the way that prayer can sometimes work like a short order cook, serving up exactly the right plate of steaming soul nourishment at exactly the right time. But I also like church.
Nope, I love church. I really do.
People sometimes scoff and say that modern church is just a social club, just a place for people to gather. What? What on earth could be more important than that? A place where people smile and welcome you, where you are to come in just as you are and sit a while. A place where even though you are broken and battered, people just know that inside all your bluster and blunder that you are whole and holy and good.
And it always smells like coffee and there is always something good that needs to be done.