Walking Our Faith: Church as community
Walking Our Faith
My mother and I lived together for 20 years after my father passed away in Kyiv, Ukraine. Mom and I lived and worked together overseas, then in Evergreen, where I bought a house. In 2015, my mother decided to return to her home in Florida.
When she arrived, one of the first places she went was Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church, where she had been a member since the 1970s.
Her church was her first stop because church is my mother’s passion and so is God. She spends hours each day reading her Bible and praying, but what she found at Coral Ridge were friends who she had known for decades and new friends who helped her reestablish a sense of being home after so many years away.
She returned to the choir that she sang in for decades and while she can no longer join them in singing on Sundays, she attends Wednesday evening practice as the designated prayer warrior. She takes prayer requests and prays for the choir throughout the week. She’s also a member of the Keenagers, a group for senior citizens of the church that meets once a month.
Coral Ridge has sent a handyman to my mother’s apartment when she needed help with a small repair, and they’ve brought her dinner on Thanksgiving eve.
Under the leadership of Pastor Rob Pacienza, Coral Ridge Presbyterian is dedicated to walking the talk of their faith by reaching into the community to help not only their own members, but also the homeless and hungry in the greater Fort Lauderdale community through programs.
At a time when we wonder how many people will return to church after a year away and whether church is even relevant to our lives anymore, I hope to convince you that church is where we find people doing the real work of making our communities better.
I mention Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church because I know they are instrumental in enabling my mother to continue to live independently well into her 90s. I also mention it because while I always enjoy and learn from Pastor Rob’s sermons, I respect a religious leader who walks the talk of his faith even more.
When our only connection to church is one hour on a Sunday morning where we slip in the door before the welcoming hymn begins and slip out right behind the pastor, our experience of church will be one of a stranger in a strange land, and our commitment to that church and its members will be as flimsy as following a favorite restaurant.
Church is meant to be more than that. The challenge is finding a church where we feel at home and then making the effort to do more than show up on Sunday. To become part of the church during the week, serve others as well as serving ourselves, this takes a commitment of time and effort on our part. And the payoff in terms of deeper relationships might not happen immediately.
When I first moved to Breckenridge, I didn’t know a soul, but I began regularly attending the Saturday evening mass at St. Mary’s Catholic Church. I was greeted by Barbara Rasmussen who always said “hello” and asked how I was doing.
If I didn’t show up for a few weeks, she asked where I’d been the next time she saw me, which had the effect of giving me second thoughts before I skipped another Saturday evening Mass. It was also an important lifeline because I was going through a difficult depression during that first year.
Church communities offer a special kind of support that we might not find elsewhere. I believe it is because we understand that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and it is God who responds, “Come to me all you who are burdened and weary and I will give you rest.”
And so we come. We ask for compassion and shelter from the pain we find in the world, and when we are stronger, we offer that same kindness to someone else in our community.
If you haven’t been to church in a long while, you are missing a wonderful opportunity to not only grow your faith but to walk the talk of your faith, to help someone who is hungry or give your attentive ear to someone who longs to be heard. You can be the hands and feet of Jesus Christ in your community.
I invite you to test out my experience for yourself. Join a weekday worship service, a Bible study or an evening prayer group in addition to your Sunday service. I believe you will find that whatever you give in time, you will receive back more in meaning.
I’d love to hear from you. If your church is offering weekday services or activities, please send me an email so I can feature your church in an upcoming column.
Suzanne Elizabeth Anderson’s column “Walking Our Faith” publishes Saturdays in the Summit Daily News. Anderson is the author of 10 novels and nonfiction books on faith. She has lived in Breckenridge since 2016. Contact her at email@example.com.
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