By Marlene Tavares
When my husband and I used to attend church every Sunday (confession: no we do not go to church regularly anymore and no I do not believe I am going to hell) we began to notice a pattern – a very frustrating pattern, at least I thought so. Every week we used to sit in the same spot, in fact everyone did. It was interesting to see because every Sunday I could pin point people’s faces and exactly where those people would sit. If someone new came into our church they would think the priest had OCD and had a seating arrangement made for everyone (of course, this was not the case). It was kind of nice. Then those special religious holidays came around like Christmas and Easter when people who did not attend church regularly like we did had to fulfill their moral obligation at least those 2 times a year and attend mass because, you know, it’s the right thing to do and God would be mad if they didn’t (insert sarcasm). Thus the term I like to use to refer to this group of people as – C ‘n E Christians.
As my husband and I circled the parking lot looking for a parking spot for a good 5 minutes, we would finally have to resort to parking across the street and walking – with me in heels, of course. Then as if taking our regular parking spot was not bad enough, we would get inside the fully packed church and every seat would be taken – yes, including ours. So what happens next? We would have to stand of course, for the entire mass so the part-timers could sit comfortably. Did I mention I was in heels? At this point, I would try very hard to tame my frustration because I am in God’s house after all and He can read my mind. After we left the church, however, I remember complaining to my husband about how unfair it is to lose our spots to the C ‘n E Christians when we were there every Sunday. I joked about how the priest should start taking attendance and reserving those seats and we would laugh, but a part of me was serious (even though I knew it would never happen).
Going to church every Sunday is not – and never will be – an obligation. Even though I joke around about it or used to get frustrated about losing my seat to the C ‘n E Christians, I am aware that it does not belong to me and we cannot judge or control how often (or how little) others attend church. I do not believe that people who attend church regularly are any better of human beings than those who never go or only go twice a year. I sincerely believe our faith, our actions, and how we live our lives on a daily basis is the true indicator of the type of Christians we are. I think we need to remember something important here though. If you are a person who does not attend church regularly for whatever the reason may be, does attending only for those special holidays really matter either? Do you really attend the Christmas and Easter mass for what it should be – to reflect and celebrate the meaning of the holiday – or is it just to say you went and feel less guilty about your attendance to church (or lack thereof)? My point is, whether you attend church regularly, twice a year, or once a month, just make sure you are actually present, and I mean really there in the moment, listening to the teachings, praying (not just kneeling in silence thinking about what you will eat for dinner), and appreciating the sense of community from other Christians present around you – and most importantly, the presence of God. When I did attend church, I can honestly say I did it wholeheartedly. I prayed, I reflected, I spoke to God in my thoughts, and I took it all in. It made me feel better. It gave me renewed strength when I left to get through the week ahead. This is how you should feel when you walk out the door one hour later.
Visit God’s house to re-energize your faith and leave with peace of mind and a fuller heart.