What I get out of church
Sunday morning. What will you be doing? Some people will be washing the car or mowing the lawn. Some will be sleeping off the night before. Some will be headed off for a day with friends and family. There is so much to do, whether it is fun to be had or chores that you can no longer ignore. So why is it that some people take an hour or so out of their weekend to go to church? What do they get out of church?
Church gives me purpose, encouragement and help in my life. Church is where my Christian family of men, women and children from all walks of life come together to support each other and enjoy all sorts of activities. Church helps me get to know God by talking with him in prayer, singing and reading the Bible. This has opened my eyes to the wonders of creation and to find out that we're all very special to God. It has helped me understand his plan and purpose for the world. It answers life's big questions.
God's son, Jesus, is at the very heart of church life, being a role model of true love for us as he gave his life to remove my sins. God raised Jesus from the dead so that I too can have a new life and live for ever, which is awesome! This helps me see beyond pain and suffering to a promised perfect world yet to come. This was very important to me when my brother died from cancer, in his twenties, as it was his faith in Jesus and the church community that surrounded him that was such a source of comfort at a very difficult time for our family.
Church life also helps me with the day-to-day challenges in caring for and encouraging those I dearly love: my wife and our family. It also helps me appreciate just how special people are to God and this compels me to reach out to help in the community too. So church is at the very centre of my life, it's my anchor; it's my joy, and my all!
With the church centred around the Bible I am always learning from it. My church strengthens my belief in God, his Son Christ the Saviour: their power and love. I also get a feeling of fellowship, engaged with other Christians who hold the same beliefs in common. Attending church regularly provides relief from the perplexities of the world around us.
Going to church is such a welcome break from the daily routines of housework, shopping, and emails. It provides peace and quiet to concentrate on spiritual things, and so reinforces daily quiet times.
It's good to hear the Bible read aloud, and with feeling. Hymn singing and worship songs help to uplift the heart to God; often the words and music stay with me for the rest of the week. Encouraging words help to put life into perspective and to lift one's mind above trivia.
After the service it's good to be able to talk to friends and support one another through worries and problems. Church brings folk, of all ages and from all walks of life, together. I love to see the children playing happily together after Sunday school, showing the pictures and crafts they have made.
Of course, it's not just about what one gets out of church; it's also important to give back and there are lots of ways to contribute. Giving back can be as rewarding as receiving and helps to increase the feeling of belonging – something we all need. Church is an essential part of my life – I can't imagine what I would do without it.
I love the Bible. Yes, I do believe that it is the inspired Word of God, preserved and handed down to us over the generations. But I also find it an amazing book: it is always yielding new ideas, new thoughts, revealing new insights. You can read it over and over again and still discover new things. My church is an environment where like-minded Bible lovers meet to discuss and understand the message of the Bible. I find that very stimulating.
The Christadelphian community is a lay community. We have no priesthood or paid clergy. Therefore we organise ourselves; we run our own services and those of us who are able to do so lead those services. I find that brings a refreshing variety of approaches to the services, which keeps them feeling fresh. It also keeps me on my toes, intellectually and spiritually, as I play my part in preparing talks and leading services. It means that I get to study and research Bible topics and themes in order to share results as part of a service.
Personally I find the Sunday morning Breaking of Bread service (the equivalent of Mass or Communion) invariably moving. The opportunity to celebrate and remember the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ, with all that means in terms of the grace of God, is something which gives me a huge spiritual lift at the start of a new week. That quiet moment when you take the bread and the wine is very special for me.
There is a tremendous sense of fellowship, of belonging, within our church, and by this I mean the individual church to which I belong as well as the world-wide Christadelphian community. "Christadelphian" literally means "brothers in Christ" and the family feeling pervades each church and the community as a whole. It's a tremendous comfort to know that you can walk into a Christadelphian church anywhere in the world and be sure of a welcome from people who share the same beliefs and values.
I love music; I play the piano and the organ and one of the things I get out of church is the ability to express some of the emotion I feel through the music that I play in church. We're lucky in Oxford, within our church there is currently a group of talented musicians. We're able to combine on a Sunday morning and help to create a strong sense of worship as we play together and lead the congregational singing.
Going to church puts me in contact with people who are, like me, taking some time out to look beyond their busy lives. Hopefully it's a place to find peace and to consider some bigger questions about God and our relationship with him. My church seems like a stop on a journey rather than a destination; but it's also place that feels like home.