Fellowship and friendships are such an essential part of who we are as believers in Christ. Kristen shares her story beautifully in this guest post. If you would like to know more about her, visit her blog here.
In 2011, a good friend of mine and I were talking about church. I was a junior in high school and had become a born-again Christian about two years earlier. Even though I felt content and happier with God in my life again, I sometimes felt something was still missing. I was also new to religion and spirituality after being away from it all for ten years growing up.
During our conversation, my friend asked me a question that would unknowingly change my life going forward: “Would you like to go to church with me one Sunday?”
I was hesitant for a couple of reasons. One, I haven’t gone to church in a long time; and two, I was raised Catholic. All I ever knew growing up was Catholicism. My friend was raised Methodist. So for me, an almost 17-year-old teenage girl, this was unfamiliar territory. But, I decided to go.
That first Sunday my friend and his parents picked me up at my house. I remember to this day walking into that church: a little smaller than the Catholic Churches I went to, the walls and windows painted a light blue, the white pews with blue cushions and tissue boxes in each seat, and right above the cross at the altar, a stained glass window. Where my churches growing up had stained glass windows throughout the sanctuary, this church had only one right in the center. Surrounded by a rainbow of colors was a small brown cross tilted on its side. Below it, a golden crown. I would look at this window often in the years to come during difficult times in my life, wondering if God was truly hearing my prayers and knew my pain and heartache.
I met the pastor at the time, Pastor Heather; a kind, sweet and good-hearted woman with two young children. That first Sunday, I took part in the Adult Sunday School class. I was familiar with Scripture due to attending CCD when I was growing up, but I was definitely in need of a refresher now and then. We sat in a circle and shared our thoughts about that day’s reading. As my friend introduced me to other congregants, I felt welcomed with open arms. Everyone was friendly and I got to know fellow churchgoers better during our Coffee Hours after each service. It was also nice to hear this at the end of the service:
“Remember, God loves you and so do I. Amen!”
I never felt somber every time I entered that church. Each Sunday, I would go back with my friend and his family and get to know everyone better with each passing week. However, it took time for me to really see, and accept, that these people were open, welcoming, and cared about me.
By 2012, I made the decision to go back to church full-time instead of now and then. Pastor Heather’s sermons helped me feel uplifted, heard, and find peace; particularly after the shooting in Newtown, CT and the Boston Marathon Bombings. She would later leave for another church and Pastor Marion would take over. By 2015, she would retire, and Pastor Lim would take on the position.
In those five years I have seen painful lows, reassuring highs, prayers answered, and hearts broken by the tragedies that afflict our world even more with each passing year. But the congregation was one steady force through those times: a shoulder to cry on, to laugh with, give hugs, to sing with in the choir, to volunteer and reach out to in the community; a family of people who came together for one hour every Sunday to worship God and count their blessings.
I know for some, church is something that makes them uncomfortable. Some feelings include fears of being judged, trying to find or make friends, wondering if a church fits what you’re seeking, and so on. I’ve wrestled with these feelings, too. Plus, I didn’t want to get involved in other activities outside of church or during the service either.
I have attended this church for six years now, and I am thankful. My church has become home, my fellow congregants my family. I have even stepped out of my comfort zone through volunteering at past tag sales, being liturgist during the service and serving Communion, and recently, joining the choir. I’ve made progress, but one can always do more and get better with attending as much as possible.
If anything with going to church, go for the fellowship. After all, the church is a physical building. The people are the ones who make the church a church and a place to feel God’s love. So check out a church, or two, even three. You never know who you’ll meet until you go out there!
Remember, though. Do it because you want to. Sometimes you need to reach a point in your life where you want to share your faith with others or meet people who share your feelings, and that’d be the opportunity to consider going to church.
The fellowship is worth it, and the friendships, are priceless.
Kristin Rivers is a writer, blogger, and content creator. A 2016 Smith College graduate, she has been building her publication credits through publishing short stories, creating her blog, The Writer’s Soul, and her recent work as a Contributing Writer for literary magazine, HEAL(er) Mag, and a Content Creator for YAYWORLD. She is currently working on her first novel.