The past couple weeks I’ve gone to a church in Charlotte that some new friends of mine go to. It’s a modern kind of church that meets in a music venue, and my history with Christianity and the church is one that has made me kind of wary of churches like that. I’ve done the whole modern church thing, years ago, and had found myself moving away from it as I become more and more disillusioned with the whole idea of rock bands playing shallow praise songs in church, and become more and more in love with the Anglican Mass and found a home within the Episcopal Church. As time went on I became less comfortable in a lot of modern churches, put off by services in which a band played and people lifted their hands and moved around during the music.
So I was nervous about this new church. I wondered if I’d like it or if I would hate it so much that even the time spent with my new friends wouldn’t be enough to get me to go to the church regularly. Tonight was the second time at the church, and I realized that the question of how comfortable I’d feel there was the wrong one to be asking. Yes, there was a band tonight, in fact the whole service was music this time. But as the band was playing and people were singing I started to realize that it really didn’t matter whether or not the music or the preaching made me feel more or less spiritual, or whatever.
A lot of people I know like to talk about how church is a community, not an institution. I have a deep love for the institutional church, in all its successes and failures, and I’ve kind of put lesser importance on the community aspects of church. But tonight made me realize that what I need now is more of the community and less of the institution. I still think of myself as an Episcopalian, and I still love going to a more formal kind of church, but as all these people around me worshipped tonight I understood that maybe this whole “we are the church” thing might just have something to it, and sometimes being in a room full of people who are wrapped up in something is holy. Sometimes watching people be creative and passionate and happy is just as much an act of spirituality and a means of grace as kneeling before a priest and receiving the Eucharist. Sometimes being around good people is more than enough.