Week 75: "Is it bad that sometimes I just don’t go to church?"

RESPONSE 1: DAWN-MARIE CORNETT

I’m not sure there is anyone who hasn’t felt the desire to sleep in on a Sunday or curl up at home on a Wednesday evening. The temptation to stay home can be a strong one. But I’ve found that if I approach those feelings with a question of "Is it good for me to stay home?" instead of "Is it bad?" I get much clearer answers from God.

God is good, and God is All. So all is good. We get confused when we think we can make bad decisions. We try to see the bad and avoid it. But if there is only good, what are we trying to avoid? There’s just good, better, and best. We only get messed up when we ignore the good God has for us.

Basically any choice we are going to make in life, if started with a question of "Is it bad?" will generally only make us feel guilty and confused. Understanding if something is bad or not is really not going to help us want to do, or not do, that thing we are questioning. It gets us started on the wrong foot. However, if we start with asking God, "Is it good?" we’ll have a way to honestly, and without guilt, see the benefits of our possible choices.

When it comes to going to church or staying home, list the good of both. For example, staying home may feel safe, comforting, and even productive if you have a lot to do. Going to church will provide inspiration, fellowship, comfort, a feeling of safety, love, and an opportunity for you to be there for others that may need your smile, your presence, and maybe even a hug.

Now that you’ve listed the good you can get and give in both choices, pick the one that appeals to you most, that best represents who you are and what you hope to accomplish in that moment and in the future. Turning to God, who knows you best, will help you be very clear about your motives.

Mrs. Eddy says this really cool thing that may help when making choices. InMiscellaneous Writings, she wrote, "Success in life depends upon persistent effort, upon the improvement of moments more than upon any other one thing. A great amount of time is consumed in talking nothing, doing nothing, and indecision as to what one should do. If one would be successful in the future, let him make the most of the present" (p. 230). So, again, go back to your list of good, keeping in thought that you wish to "make the most of the present," and you’ll do well.

Infinite good, God, can only provide infinitely good choices. Get guilt out of the way. Don’t ask if going to church or staying home is bad. Just ask God where you are most needed and can do the most good, how you can make the most of the moment. I bet most of the time, that will be accomplished by going to church, but sometimes God may need you somewhere else. Trust God to have the full picture of the best for you and others, and then just follow where you are led.

RESPONSE 2: JOHN BIGGS

I remember feeling very much like this! Most of the time I did end up forcing myself to go, but I didn’t really engage with the service, and all that forcing never made it any easier. Sometimes, I’d just go spend that hour in the woods or in my hammock, and have a solitary hour of prayer. I knew this wasn’t maybe what I was supposed to be doing, but I didn’t see what I was going to gain from going to church "just because."

This all changed, however, when I watched a video of a round table chat with the Board of Directors, and one of them mentioned something about how going to church is such an opportunity to give. This changed everything for me. It was no longer a place I was ritually expected to go, in the hopes of receiving something. Now, instead of it seeming like a chore, church was a gathering where I was invited to give!

The beautiful thing is, when you are focused on what you can give, you naturally are available to see what you’re being given. This gave me a whole new impetus to go to church. Then, with all the focus on Church Alive, I began to see how church was so much broader than the physical locale and Sunday morning time. Since I was beginning to see how church was this beautiful invitation to give, it was only natural to realize that Sunday morning at 10 am, was simply another opportunity to keep living out the idea of church.

So, there’s no "yes" or "no" answer I can give to your question. It isn't about judging your attendance at church; it’s about getting a clearer sense for yourself of what church really means and offers. It’s about revamping our idea of Church to see the vibrancy and life inherent in it, and freeing our concept of church from any constraints of ritualism. You might enjoy trying attending church with a completely fresh view of why you’re going. Let your love for God and man impel you —in this, as in everything else.

  1. I’ve always thought of church attendance as being a privilege to be on the front lines of imparting good and seeing good in all, a calling to help shine forth healing helping light to the world, a supreme blessing for me and mine. The light is Truth. The pure Truth is found in the laws of existence in the Bible and “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy.” The Truth is always present, always communicating, being reality. Church is the light switch that illuminates Truth for the congregation, community and world. It just seems like the most important job on the planet, learning to be a witness bearer to Truth. What other organization on the planet has the ability to bring perfect Truth to bear on the human condition and reveal it as Godlike? Not one!

    It does seem hard to go to church at times, when there’s been a late night, or you’d rather avoid personality issues, or there’s a play off game, etc. But, then I try to ask myself, where else can humanity find the true God and real man, the truth about themselves? Where would they find Truth if there were no Christian Science movement? And then, how important does that make The Christian Science Church???? Important enough to bite the bullet and get up and go, to swallow pride and hurt feelings and rise above stupid personality issues, to choose the salvation of yourself and the world over a game, etc. Mrs. Eddy says: “Self-sacrifice is the highway to heaven” and I’m learning she really means it. You can replace “church” for the word “self-sacrifice.” This is being willing to be a part of bearing witness to Truth in the human condition. It feels so good to be part of something that is way bigger than a limited tiny sense of self. How practical and vibrant church activity becomes when we really discern what its all about.

  2. Approached either way – “what can I give?” or “what will I get?” from going to church, usually results in my recognizing, however reluctantly, that I am going both to give and to get many blessings and rewards, through inspiration gained, gratitude heard and spoken, and in human fellowship and community.
    The human mind argues that others can be difficult, rules are constricting, services seem repetitive and boring, but the antidote to this, I have found, is to redouble my efforts at gaining and sharing what I am coming to understand about God’s activity in my life. What I hear, what I contribute, how I participate, what I experience, at church, are God-determined and God-appointed, and as such, are sure to bless both me and those “whom (my) thoughts rest upon” (MY 210).

  3. I recall an association address that shared something to the effect that in the very early churches members brought lanterns with them to illumine their way to an evening service and to brighten the churches in which the services were held.If certain ones did not come there would appear to be darkened areas.But when all came there was such brightness and illumination.I always felt that we could bring our own love and inspiration and that would give the added light to today’s services.
    As Love’s children we can all shine!

  4. There have been times where I have needed a day of rest; a day where I do not have to be somewhere or meet any outside obligation. Those days are rare but needed when they happen. If we’re too “busy” in our thinking then we are not taking in the Spirit so to speak. I love the idea of giving and when I’m growing spiritually, I am usually anxious to share the good news of what is happening. Church is indeed a structure that supports our growth even when it is trying. It teaches us to love when it’s easy and when it’s not so easy.

  5. If you felt that church was just filled and running over with healing love it would probably be difficult to stay away. Now that points to the opportunity you have to make sure that that love is there. Let us rejoice that divine Love is already there, ready for us to be there to express it. We don’t need to wait until we get there either, start by sending it on ahead. And perhaps if we just can not make it we could send a double portion. See you in church. U

  6. The only reasons normally you do not attend church services are:
    1. A family or personal matter, other than being ill, that causes you to be absent from service.
    2. Your out of town and no CS church around where you are.
    3. Your not in good health and are under CS treatment for healing and therefore by not attending service, prevent a possible unfortunate scene at church.
    Other than that, it is just “ERROR” or evil mental suggestion on not attending service.

    “Think about it: Each week has a total of “168 HOURS” and just going to church for two services of one hour each plus travel time, is not asking much from your precious private life.

  7. I feel that the most important reminder is that we might, in fact do, have someting to give. Much in our culture today tempts us to forget that “it is in giving that (we) receive.” We can take the “atmosphere of Love” w/us when we go to church…& expect that those who need to feel embraced will feel enfolded by & in divine Love.

  8. Thank you I loved all of your comments. Church attendance is so precious. My love for Church and gratitude for all the good in my life makes me want to support it. There are not too many things that would prevent me from attending other than if someone was needing my help then I am living Church.

  9. Thank you. I appreciate both responses.

    Going to church and really “being there” means giving, an opportunity to pray specifically for the congregation, as TMC Manual (pg. 42:1) states. And it is true that when we give, we in turn are blessed.

    Our prayers are so needed. There seem to be a lot of distractions in society today — things that would attract us and seem appealing, but do not forward our spiritual growth. By listening we will be in the best place to give and to bless.

  10. So many interesting and useful responses in thinking more deeply about church attendance! #3 S Sawitsky, what a beautiful description in symbol and practice! The idea that if we can’t make it , we can still pray for church is also good and true. It’s important to welcome members, who have had to be away as well as newcomers. We each reflect the light of all inclusive divine Love and nothing less.

  11. Just imagine for a moment if the organist, or usher, or the Reader(s) made the same decision whenever it seemed to them they would rather not be at the service. I always like to remember that our Paster (The Bible and Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy) is bringing us a message of love, life, truth, intelligence and spiritual growth at every service, so it is vital for me to be there to hear what the Paster is telling me. Then, too, I am able to give my support for whomever may tell of a healing and rejoice with them, as was the case this past Wednesday when our attendence was just a few people.

  12. When I don’t feel like going, I remind myself that I always feel different (better) at the end of the service, than I did in the beginning. I especially like Wed services in this regard, because they always include surprises (previously unheard readings and testimonies).

    I remind myself that my mere presence there is a gift to the others, just as their presence is a gift to me.

    I also always try to “bring an offering” in the form of preparing some sort of brief testimony in advance. Even if it’s just an insight from CS studies, or a grateful-for-something comment. I can always change to another testimony during the service if I’m suddenly inspired to say something different than planned.

    I try hard to keep my testimony comments brief. Frankly, too many testifiers drone on and on in a very wordy way, very boring to listen to even if they include some good points. This is another good reason to prepare testimonies in advance, to edit out the extra wordiness.

    Sunday servicee are always more challenging for me, from a boredom standpoint, particularly during the reading of the Lesson. I find it helpful to have the full-text Study Edition of the Quarterly in hand, to follow along during the reading. This helps to keep my concentration on the Lesson, and not drift off daydreaming. I try hard to listen for ways the Readers emphasize words that is different from how I’d been reading them during the week.

    I try to participate as vigorously as I can in all the hymn singing, which is one thing I think always changes my mood for the better at the end of every service.

    I also always enjoy praying for the congregation, and having them pray for me too.

  13. Honest and provocative question. I thought both the official responses helpful, as well as everyone else’s. I also love the beautiful idea of taking our own light to the services – this is so important.

    There seems no point to me in attending church out of routine, or because you feel you ought to – it does nobody any good. To go because you have understood a little of what Christian Science is bringing to light about our true selfhood in God’s image, and to find out our God-given potential to heal and bless – and to really love what we are learning and demonstrating, even if only a little tiny bit – is really worthwhile.

    Regarding feeling bored. I remember once visiting a botanical garden with someone, looking at a plant and remarking that it seemed to be rather a boring plant. This person retorted -”There are no boring plants, only bored people”. This really made me think – not just about plants, but about everything else that came before my attention. From what standpoint was I viewing this – after all, God made all that was made, and I am sure He couldn’t have made anything boring. I find I am looking at things more deeply, and from a spiritual standpoint, and looking for what God is expressing.

    To feel the love of God reflected in love – the healing atmosphere of the true Church which Mrs. Eddy envisaged – is wonderfully uplifting and strengthening.

  14. Our church at one time hosted a meeting for the local clergy. A comment given by one of the pastors was that we are living in a “consumer society” and that people are asking, “If I go to church what will I get?” instead of asking “What can I give?”

    I’ve always found myself eager to attend church as first, my quiet time with God to acknowledge Her goodness and to hear what messages She is wanting to me to have. Secondly, I love feeling that I am dedicating those 2 hours a week as a “thank you” to God for all that I’m receiving during the week. This has made me really wanting to attend.

  15. Where I grew up, in Manitoba,Canada, the nearest group of Christian Scientist’s was forty mile away. We lived on a farm and the only way was by horse and wagon. We ever attended. Later my husband, and I, and two small children, moved to New Westminster on the west coast. I was so excited when I first attended my first Christian Science church service. I walked to church every Sunday. I felt it to be a privilege to be there . Later we enrolled our children in the Sunday School.
    I given much to the church since, but it has all come back to me.

  16. All I can say is “Thank you!” I thank the two responses for helping me understand the goodness in attending church. Also, I thank those who have shared their feelings and insights as well.
    Recently retired, I’ve given much thought to “purpose.” Clearly, my purpose is to give, and going to church is one of those opportunities.

  17. When we attend church we always bless and are blessed. That seems to sum up most of the dear comments above. When I’ve asked our Father-Mother what testimony I should share, I’m so glad to get a quick answer, many times during the service. One time I asked and followed the angel message, then was so gratified that what I’d shared healed someone in that very meeting. What better reason to go than to experience such healing right in church.
    Many times when I’ve felt too tired to attend a testimony meeting, I remembered CS teacher’s saying that we should be alert to those suggestions of animal magnetism which are directly tailored to keep us from sharing with our communities the fact that CS does heal. We are about our Father’s business of blessing when we actively attend services that are designed to bear witness to the truth of God’s healing power and presence. We are doing this very thing also while we teach in our Sunday Schools. What better activity could there be. God blessing us and we blessing God and each other! Wow! I’m extra glad to actively attend this evening. See you in church.

  18. I remember telling a C.S. Practitioner once that I was sorry I hadn’t been real regular about attending church. Her reply was so sweet and real and absolute: “Oh no, dear, she said, I really believe you are always in your Right Place.” Wasn’t that lovely? She really believed that we can be with God and give and receive Love wherever we are, not just in Church!!

  19. I remember once, years ago, standing waiting for a bus to take me to church. It was a beautiful day and the cars driving past all seemed to be filled with happy people going to the beach. At first I was tempted to think reluctantly “And here am I going to church.” Then a much better thought came and I thought what good would it do me or anyone else to just lie on the beach or swim? I thought of all the blessings the activity of the Christ in church brings to the congregation and the community. This really dealt with that feeling then and in the years since. Many times when I have been really hurting inside I have found such comfort and even healing from attending church and I know that comfort and healing is available in church to all who come.

  20. I go to support the Readers, Musicians and to demonstrate the Bible Lesson. I guess I’d just rather be in Church. It’s just one hour. In contrast, filling that hour with something else just seems like a waste of time, when I could have been in Church.

  21. Is it bad not to attend? Well it is bad to go up to someone and say inquiringly, "We missed you!" and then not mean it.

    At my church a newcomer would promise me he was going to attend. I said, "It is up to you!" It is his spiritual journey not mine to steer. Whether or not he attends is none of my business.

    One time I withdrew my membership from our branch church because I was not growing in Christian Science. I had just had two children and needed something concrete, less cerebral, more helpful day to day. Previous to that I had really dug into the lesson, but was now no longer doing that so was not growing. (Who can both nurse a baby and hold books?) I then attended another denomination, powerpoint presentation, rock band, child care, shake hands with your neighbor, the whole bit. After reading their book, I realized it was not for me and came back. My kids started and continued in Sunday School and learned to pray effectively.

  22. An offering pure of Love, whereto God leadeth me...hymn 253.

  23. We can remember that our church began in an era when a certain concept of Christian "church" was rampant, at least in America: big building with spire(s), big congregation, big donations, big music, a certain look (social and religious conformity as an expression of unity) -- in a word, triumphalism. You know the lyrics from "Oklahoma": "Everything's up to date in Kansas City. They have gone about as far as they can go." I suspect it was a sense of the temporary nature of those standards that caused so many early CS congregations to choose instead the "Greek columns" over the "spires" (and now we sometimes poke fun at the columns!). That ideal of triumphalism, prevalent at the close of the 19th century, is failing those that blossomed under its belief. Those once flourishing churches (mostly "WASP") are in decline. Even the "social gospel" is struggling. Mary Baker Eddy had a very different concept of the Church Triumphant (Church Manual, p. 19). In thinking about our own church attendance, or non-attendance, we might want to evaluate which vision of "church" we have bought into. Have we unwittingly mixed the two? Do we really understand and appreciate the great freedom from fashion and conformity to the world that comes with our skeletal bylaws? From the comments above, I'd say that Yes, many of us get it.
    For many years, now, I've often thought of the Wed. meeting in particular as an oasis, whose vital blessings we share along with other weary travelers.

  24. When a friend and I were discussing the temptation to feel tired or bored in church, she compared our one hour of church to the one hour the disciples were asked to pray with Jesus before his crucifixion. Jesus and his disciples went to Gethsamane in the Mount of Olives, and he asked the disciples to watch and pray with him. Then, "he cometh unto the disciples, and findeth them asleep, and saith unto Peter, 'What, could ye not watch with me one hour? Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak" (Matthew 26:36-41). I sometime have those days where I'm not as motivated to go to church. When I remember this story, though, I'm less tempted by tiredness, busyness, or apathy; instead, I'm inspired to go to church to develop my spiritual alertness and to pray for the world. Thanks to everyone who shared some great thoughts on this topic!

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