I love church. I’ve always loved church, ever since my parents sent me to the local Church of England Sunday School when I was 4 years old. It felt like home and I knew that it was where I belonged. At the age of 11 I was confirmed and asked about my commitment to God and I have been part of a church and walked with the Lord ever since. I’ve attended several different churches in different parts of the country, but it is still where I feel at home and I know deep in my heart it is where I belong. It has never crossed my mind when I wake up on a Sunday morning to think, ‘I’ll not go to church today’.
Last Sunday my experience of church was slightly unusual. I had been asked to bring a visitor to the meeting, which I was happy to do, but we were late, arriving 15 minutes after the service had started, and we left 15 minutes before it ended. It felt strange. I still enjoyed the meeting, I was able to worship the Lord through the songs and enjoyed listening to the sharing and taking part in the fun of the children’s songs. I heard the first few minutes of the talk and have since listened to the rest online. So, in one way, I didn’t miss anything – but it felt like I had. What I missed was the fellowship, the connection with other people who love the Lord and who I worship with on a Sunday morning. I realised again how important that is and that it’s an integral part of meeting together for worship. Although my relationship with the Lord is individual, my relationship with his people is also important.
It reminded me of a picture of church which I’ve heard described. Imagine Jesus in the centre of a group of people, who are all stood in a circle around him. As the people hold hands and draw closer together the circumference of the circle gets smaller and more tightly knit and the people inevitably draw closer to Jesus. There is a sense in the conversations around the meeting, although often quite brief, of belonging to a group of people who genuinely care for one another. The brief word of interest or encouragement, handshake or hug and farewell words of ‘have a good week’ are an important part of a Sunday morning, and were much missed when absent.
‘And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.’ Hebrews 10:24-25