Monday, August 20, 2007

Eliot on church-going

The inhabitants of Raveloe were not severely regular in their church-going, and perhaps there was hardly a person in the parish who would not have held that to go to church every Sunday in the calendar would have shown a greedy desire to stand well with Heaven, and get an undue advantage over their neighbours - a wish to be better than the 'common run', that would have implied a reflection on those who had had godfathers and godmothers as well as themselves, and had an equal right to the burying-service.

- George Eliot, Silas Marner, Chapter 10.

Is it possible to go to church too much? What are legitimate reasons for not going on a given week? If you consider yourself a church-goer, how do you decide whether or not to attend each Sunday?
Ten points for the first to correctly name this building.

16 comments:

One of Freedom said...

With our kids we have struggled with this one a lot. Our church doesn't yet do anything regular that they can connect with and we do not meet on Sundays. So we would like to see them integrate into some sort of Christian community. But on the other hand, having been in Christian communities I would also like to spare them some of that. What makes it even more complicated is that they are growing in their faith despite the minimal church attendance. Last night at dinner my seven year old insisted on praying for the meal and crafted a lovely prayer including an invitation for God to come into our midst.

To further compound the problem, I really believe in Church. I really believe that churches shouldn't be perfect, that they should be organic messes full of struggling people trying to make sense of the life of faith and "naive" enough to take God at God's Word. In fact kids sometimes make the best churchies, they don't have all the pretenses that we tend to take on as we get older. So sending kids into a backroom where they are not heard/spoken of for the whole service also doesn't sit right with me.

Our compromise is that about once a month we ask the girls where they want to go. Inevitably they will say the singing church or the water church, or another descriptor to which we instantly know which church they mean. They aren't getting consistant community from these churches - but they get that at home and with our neighbours kids (some of whom are also Christians). We get flack for this, especially being a pastoral couple, but I'm not one to bow to the expectations of others when it comes to stuff I find important. I'm hoping we'll eventually have a new kids inclusive home group (we've run those in the past on Sundays and they are amazing), but until then this is good enough for us.

::aaron g:: said...

Great question. Yes, it is possible to go too much. It's also possible to go WAY too much. However, as the comment above notes, this can be a problem when you are in pastoral work.

One Salient Oversight said...

I am not a hamburger.

Drew said...

We meet regularly with our church, and some of the main (but not only) considerations are precisely this meeting: the upkeep of relationships, and some small organisational responsibilities we had decided to take on for that meeting.

I certainly think you could meet together too much, or too little, but also that you can also be part of a church that is too much; ie. too large.

Hecta said...

I have gone twice on Sundays for a couple of lengthy periods in my life. Mostly this has been because I am doing something such as running the sound system or leading the singing. I find that I spend much of the time distracted by what I am doing and so I go twice - once to be useful and once to participate more fully.

I have also gone twice in order to be able to go with my family to church and yet also to a service that is a better fit for me in terms of style or demographic.

I have stopped going twice several times. Usually I stop doing it if I find that I am gaining a sense of my own worth or importance by doing it. Once I stopped because it seemed to be unhelpful for a couple of others.

Church is important to me and yet I know that it has the capacity to be deeply hurtful and destructive as well. I have missed a Sunday when what happened was making me so angry that I couldn't trust myself near it. On the whole though we have taken the approach that there are good reasons for deciding to change church (service or congregation) in preference to deciding not to attend. I suspect that we are about to face significant new challenges in all this as our son starts to have highly desirably other offers on Sundays.

Anthony Douglas said...

Of course it is - I believe they're called monasteries.

I would think that if the apostles were comfortable with meeting daily, then there's little danger of any of us finding the time to go with a frequency that is intrinsically too much.

There may, of course, be other factors at work.

One of Freedom said...

Hey Anthony,

I come out of a Pentecostal tradition that basically dominated your life with church so that you would become seperate from the world. This to me is not healthy, and really doesn't reflect what the early church did meeting daily in homes. When we are talking about programming the hell out of folks lives then I think there is a big problem. Namely, we are missing the world that God so loved. But when we are in each others lives, so comfortably on a daily basis, as we live in the world as Kingdom people - then yes, you can't get enough. Far too much of what I see, in my North American context, is trying to compete with the world to keep people out of the world. The more I see that the more I think any of that is too much.

Anthony Douglas said...

Exactly my point - it's not a question of frequency, but what happens in 'church' that is determinative as far as Byron's question goes.

Moffitt the Prophet said...

Salisbury Cathedral?

byron smith said...

Not Salisbury.

Moffitt the Prophet said...

Ely?

byron smith said...

Ely is not a building.

Moffitt the Prophet said...

Worcester Cathedral?m

byron smith said...

Nup.

Anthony Douglas said...

It's a trick question, isn't it? This is a university college, not a church!

byron smith said...

There is no trick. I simply ask people to correctly name the building.