Where I live there was an icy mix of snow overnight and throughout the day yesterday.  Churches all across our area cancelled Sunday worship for safety concerns.  In the middle of the day, the safest time I supposed for travel, I went to visit mom at the rehab center.  Since she broke her ankle a few weeks ago, she has been unable to stay in the home-like small assisted living community near my house.  Instead, she’s almost half an hour away in a much larger nursing home/rehab center.  The staff and environment there are nice, but it doesn’t compare to the place she now calls home.  So although things are going fairly well, mom is not as comfortable, not as relaxed, not as able to navigate her surroundings and her own schedule/needs nearly as well.  So I’ve been trying to be with her more, although the distance is farther and our calendar has been full throughout the holiday season.

When I arrived yesterday, there were fewer visitors than usual due to icy roads and sidewalks.  I learned that the early morning church service on site had been cancelled because the volunteers who lead it had been unable to come.  Mom had already had PT and OT and it was only 1:00 p.m.  There was only one other thing on the schedule for the afternoon:  another church service led by visitors/volunteers.  Of course they wouldn’t be coming out in the snow for this, I assumed.  When you cancel your “own” church service, would you go out for a church service in a facility where only a small fraction of the residents had any idea what was actually going on?  That’s not practical.

So, how would we fill the afternoon?  I pushed mom’s wheelchair around and around the hallways.  I tried playing dominoes with her.  We tried watching TV.  We tried reading the newspaper.  Nothing interested her or held her attention more than a couple of minutes.  So we went to the front lobby where I could get a cup of coffee.  Three people came in and sat down.  They were nicely dressed, so I assumed it was a family member’s birthday or a similar special occasion.  Then I heard them talking.  They were waiting in the lobby for others:  for the one who would preach and for the others who would sing and for others too who were coming just to worship together with them.  Mom overheard them:  “Is there going to be a church service?” she asked them.  Yes, yes there was going to be. “Oh good, I’ll look forward to that,” mom lifted her arms like a cheerleader might do.

At this point, not only was I emotionally fatigued, but I needed to get home and check on my children.  I had work- and home-related chores to complete.  I was ready to leave but was feeling like I should stay.  The promise of the church service… the community, the hope, the Word, the presence… it changed everything.

Mom didn’t know the people leading the service.  She didn’t know their denomination or their style of worship.  It didn’t matter.  It was the Body of Christ.  These members of the Body who came to lead were not trying to “grow their business” or even grow their church.  Those leading the service were also not coming to be “on stage,” to grow in popularity or to boost the likes on their ministry social media.  So what were they coming to do?  They were coming to meet with people:  many of whom can’t speak in sentences, some of whom have a faint odor of urine, most moving slowly with aid from a walker, wheelchair, or cane; They were coming to meet with people:  all beautiful, valuable children of God.  These members of the Body of Christ drove on snowy roads and walked on icy sidewalks in order to do one thing:  to be present together in worship of God.  They won’t collect an offering.  They won’t gain new members.  They aren’t from my denomination so they don’t even get to enter their “numbers” in that online system we use.  But their presence was sacramental today to me… to my mother… and to many of the residents and staff at the nursing home/rehab center.  This is what it means to be the Body of Christ.  Those worship leaders love and value the people they came to lead in worship.

I read an article yesterday by a person who has given up on the Church.  Her words were honest and accurate about her experience and her pain.  I read it in the morning, and I thought about it all day long.  I can’t in good conscience tell the author that she must return to the Church in order to be connected to God.  And yet, I can’t in good conscience believe we can be fully Christian in isolation.  We are part of the Body of Christ.  And when we come together to celebrate and to worship, to serve and to study, we not only remember (a thought process) Jesus, but we re-member (a creative reality) Jesus.  If the church were merely a social club, a networking group, etc., then it’s true:  we wouldn’t need it.  But… if what I have been taught and what I have experienced is true, then we do need the Church.  And we, the Church, need to wake up and wake up fast.  We must address and change our injustices.  We must live as though we are the Body of Christ and not just a place to “plug in” for service or fellowship opportunities.  We need to be more like the group that visits the nursing home weekly and less like the culturally defined “successful” Christians out there.  We need to be more like Jesus.

I wish the author of the article (a stranger to me, someone from another city and state most likely) could have been there yesterday.  I think she could be at home in the Church as we experienced it.  I’m praying for her, that she find the Church somewhere, somehow.  And I’m praying for the Church, that we find anew what it means to truly be the Church, to be the Body of Christ.






3 thoughts on “Finding the Church

  1. Your perspectives and experiences help me a lot since my mom has also made many adjustments, not too happily, to her failing memory and senior living. Observations about the church also coincide with much that I encounter in a week, even your closing as just today I heard from someone who is thinking of cutting off a connection to a local congregation that has been her body of Christ. We have much to pray about, and I also am thankful for thoughtful friends like you who share daily life and body life honestly.

    Liked by 1 person

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