Once I told a new acquaintance that I went to church. He was generally surprised that I was a "believer" and that I chose to live "in community" with faith. I'm not sure if I understood his meaning or if that was what he meant to say, but I loved sound of living "in community."
Another friend made a joke about a "whore in church" which may or not have been directed at me. However I was fine with that analogy too....at least I was going there and enjoying myself and whatever, it's all about forgiveness right?
Outside of our families and workplaces there are fewer and fewer opportunities to live "in community". Inside of families and our places of work we carry the burden of responsibility, expectations and outcomes. Very few groups in our American landscape offer a simple refuge free of burdens and expectation. All you need a tiny, infinitesimal bit of faith. It can be clouded with scientific certainty, loss of belief in god and fellow man and sealed with need to understand the world as it is, free of miracles, mystery and the paranormal. In fact you don't even need that tiny bit faith to go there.
Recently a friend and fellow churchgoer passed away. He died "in community". What that meant is that a group of relative strangers reached out collectively to embrace him, his partner and family with love and caring. With hugs and whatever support his loved ones needed to grieve, heal and move forward.
I know there are a lot of people who thought they lived "in community" and that community hurt them. So they turned their backs on all communities of faith. They cut themselves off from the potential of love, friendship and support. A therapist friend recently posted how many of his young clients feel disconnected despite all their digital connectivity. A text is not a substitute for a hug. A "like" on Facebook is not the same as a smile when you see a friend for lunch. However sitting snugly in a pew with people that may not know your name, but will rise up and hug you in times of trouble is reassuring indeed, even if you sleep through the most of the sermons.
When I go to my church, Coral Gables Congregational United Church of Christ, I feel loved. Not in a creepy, fake or overbearing way, but in a way that says we're here for you when you need us, and someday you will need us. A collective hug that will comfort you when times are hard, a large group of people "in community" who are happy to share the burden of caring for one member, though a rough patch. All they ask is that I show up once in awhile and believe....just a little tiny bit...or not.