As we prepare for Easter during Holy Week, I found this personal reflection in The New York Times to be of interest:
At the start of the piece:
I went to church on Easter Sunday last year, and never went back. It wasn’t a boycott, exactly. It was an inability, week after week, to face the other believers…
At the end of the piece:
The year away from church hasn’t made me miss the place itself. I don’t miss the stained glass. I don’t miss the gleaming chalice or the glowing candles or the sweeping vestments. But I do miss being part of a congregation. I miss standing side by side with other people, our eyes gazing in the same direction, our voices murmuring the same prayers in a fallen world. I miss the wiggling babies grinning at me over their parents’ shoulders. I miss reaching for a stranger to offer the handshake of peace. I miss the singing.
Some other points:
In this house, we have never been Christmas-and-Easter-only Christians. My husband and I grew up in the church and raised our children there. Even during the hardest years, when mobilizing three young sons and various configurations of elderly parents felt like running the Iditarod every Sunday morning — even then, we didn’t miss Mass.
During college and graduate school, I tried to talk myself out of believing in God. The reasons not to believe were multifarious and convincing. The reasons to believe came down to only one: I couldn’t not believe. I seem to have been born with a constant ache for the sacred, a deep-rooted need to offer thanks, to ask for help, to sing out in fathomless praise to something. In time I found my way back to God, the most familiar and fundamental something I knew, even if by then my conception of the divine had enlarged beyond any church’s ability to define or contain it.
In the past year, while my husband and his father were at church on Sunday mornings, I was in the woods, where God has always seemed more palpably present to me anyway. (And not just to me: “Some keep the Sabbath going to Church,” Emily Dickinson wrote back in the 19th century. “I keep it, staying at Home.”) For me, a church can’t summon half the awe and gratitude inspired by a full-throated forest in all its indifferent splendor.
- Who do you know who would say, “Easter is calling me back to church”?
- If Margaret Renkel was a friend, what questions might you ask her?
- If you met her at your church this Sunday, what might you do or say to make her feel welcome in your congregation?