Rev. Lora Brandis
A few weeks ago I asked you to reflect on why you choose to come to church. Forty percent of Americans say they go to church weekly, which is probably less than that given that they are self-reporting church attendance. Why do you choose to be one of the self-reported 40 percent? “Why are you here?” I asked those attending the service April 29th.
I didn’t ask so that I could gather statistics for the next strategic plan. I asked because I want to know. I asked because I wanted you to have the chance to take some time in a worship setting to reflect deeply on this question. Why are you here? Not, why you are here in the existential sense of that question. Why, in a culture that increasingly chooses no church, why do you choose to come to church Sunday morning?
First a few statistics, according to my very unscientific survey. From those who turned in their reflections: Thirteen have been attending less than one year. Twenty-four have been attending between one and five years. Eleven between six and ten years. Eighteen between eleven and fifteen years. Four between sixteen and twenty years. Fifteen between twenty-one and twenty-five years. Five between twenty-six and thirty years. Four for more than thirty years. My favorite category is the one with those who reported coming off and on for years = eleven.
What do these numbers mean? Not much probably, without looking at them in the context of other demographics. I was curious. I am much more interested in why people come than how many people come to church. Here are a few of those responses:
- “When I walk up and see Lucy, I know I am welcomed and will learn to cope (with depression) and to love. This church, although I am still a visitor, fills my heart.”
- “I need a weekly influx of UUism and affirmation from my community.”
- “Because this church includes us all. I like that not one person or religion has all the answers.”
- “Horizon was recommended to me by a gentleman at a GALA event. I don’t have many friends in Dallas, and I wanted to see what you guys were about.”
- “To learn and grow with people of different beliefs.”
- “Because someone said they hoped to see me at church today. Feeling known and seen helps overcome the depression that keeps me in bed.”
- “To get re-grounded and centered. To meet welcoming people.”
- “Looking for connection and spiritual growth for myself and my children.”
There is one statistic that I think holds true for churches. It is often reported that if someone does not fully engage in the life of the congregation in their first three years of attendance they won’t stay. To those of you who have been attending less than one year, I would like to say, “please stay.” Whether you become a voting member or not. Whether you become one of those who report coming “off and on” for years. Please stay. Please stay – not because we need you – but because from reading all of the responses I think it’s safe to assume that you need us.
Choose church in a time when so many are choosing no church. Choose community. Choose to cope with your life as it is. Choose love. Choose church.