Walking Our Faith: Community matters
Walking Our Faith
Last weekend, I attended a house blessing of friends from Saint Mary’s. Afterward, we shared a light meal and an afternoon of laughter. What do we have in common? We regularly attend weekday morning mass at St. Mary’s. Through this common practice, we have become friends.
I recently returned from two weeks in Fort Lauderdale, where I was unable to attend church as I was caring for my mother after she was released from two months of rehabilitation after hip surgery.
Although I was not able to attend church, I prayed and read my Bible daily. I felt like myself but monochromatic; something was missing from my life.
Then I returned to Breckenridge and my familiar faith practices: 4:30 p.m. rosary on Mondays and 5 p.m. evening prayer. It was a comfort to see familiar faces, and returning after a two-week absence felt like coming home.
I felt the same way returning to Mass on Tuesday and Thursday morning this week. Once again, my heart was filled with a sense of belonging and community, and my life felt lived in full color.
Experiencing this vivid contrast made me realize an important truth about going to church and finding our own communities within church.
A familiar Bible verse is, “When two or more are gathered in my name, I am with you there.” These words were spoken by Jesus Christ to encourage his followers. I’ve never really given a lot of thought to the meaning of these words until I experienced them in action. I truly did feel a difference between my life with and without my church community.
I was the same person in Fort Lauderdale as I am in Breckenridge. But I realize that church is more than just a place to spend an hour a week; it’s more than another box we tick off our to-do list.
Church is where we find our community. Perhaps not all of our community. We also find friendships in our hiking, biking and skiing groups and in our book clubs, knitting groups and community service organizations. But as we’ve discovered over the past year, each of these activities are more meaningful when we do them with others and when we do them in person.
What I discovered is that when I don’t go to church, something is missing in my life. Something is missing in my spiritual walk with God. Yes I can worship and love God on my own. I do so daily. I can even worship God through church services that are televised through my computer or Zoom.
But worshiping and loving God with other people on Sundays and during weekday services in person — knowing that I pray with and for others, that they pray for me, that our voices are lifted together as one — is more than I can accomplish alone.
Our evening prayer service, which still meets via Zoom, has become more meaningful as we began meeting in person once a month. The remarkable moving of the Holy Spirit is palpable during this in-person prayer service. What’s different?
We are reciting the same Friday prayer from the Liturgy of the Divine Office. But there are anywhere from 30 to 50 people present in the sanctuary, kneeling or standing or sitting in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament, together reciting the prayers of the Psalms, and then ending by speaking our individual prayer requests for ourselves and others aloud.
“For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” — Matthew 18:20
Almost daily, Mom speaks to friends from her church in Fort Lauderdale and friends and neighbors from her condo. Now that Mom is living with me, I know an important part of her life here will be to find her own church community of friends. These new relationships will become an important part of making her life in Breckenridge more vibrant and meaningful.
When I returned from Fort Lauderdale, members of my weekday evening prayer group asked about Mom and said they had continued to pray for her while I was gone. What a beautiful gift this was to know that the prayers I had mentioned each night were carried on even while I was not present.
When I attend Mass on Sundays or weekdays at Saint Mary’s, often our pews are filled with visitors to Breckenridge. They are complete strangers who might only be here for the weekend or the summer. Yet I admire that they have made time in their holiday to come to church and be part of our church community.
Even though I may not meet them in person, I am grateful for their presence. Though they have joined us for perhaps the briefest time, when I hear their voices raised with mine in prayer or song, I know we are each having our hearts filled and our spirits strengthened because we are together sharing our walk of faith.
This weekend, I hope you will visit a church or place of worship and begin the good work of finding your own community there and experiencing a closer walk with God through fellowship with others.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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