The Meaning and Value of Church Community

One of the more memorable family anthems for our family originally came to us somewhere along the New Jersey Turnpike, as we made the long journey from Maine to North Carolina in the summer of 2009. Our then young teenage daughter was likely giving us some kind of grief (who can remember them all?), and as if by magic, Kelly Clarkson’s “My Life Would Suck Without You” came on the radio. My husband and I immediately gravitated to the line of lyric that went, “I know that I’ve got issues, but you’re pretty messed up too.”

A family anthem was born. Still today, when our now almost-not-a-teenager-anymore daughter, or her brother, gives us a certain kind of grief, the lyrics offer a comforting refrain, “I know that I’ve got issues, but you’re pretty messed up too.”

Although many a church member would blanch at the uttering of the title of this song, “My Life Would Suck Without You” in worship, the part of that song that has become one of our family’s favorite refrains would make a very nice church refrain as well.

One of the aspects of church life that I continue to find fascinating, and meaningful, is the varied, yet cohesive, collection of people who gather in church. At Old South, as it has been in other churches of which I’ve been part over my life, the people who gather wouldn’t likely gather in any other way, or in any other place. A few of them live in the same neighborhood. Some share a common interest or hobby. But, on an average Sunday morning, even when attendance is low, a rather unusual assemblage of people is there in the pews—gathered in a way that is unique. We have an assortment of class, life experience, education level, culture, political leanings and a bit of diversity in terms of age and race.

Before and after worship, it is common to see these varied people reaching out to each other in encouragement or comfort, or just to share a pleasant greeting. I see them engaged in deep conversation, sharing stories, providing a space for solace or joy, sometimes both at the same time. Somewhere in there they live out the notion “I know that I’ve got issues, but you’re pretty messed up too.” There’s a shared sense of brokenness, as well as hope and reconciliation, that our faith leads us to recognize not only the imperfections of others, but our own as well. And, we come to at least a partial knowledge that God’s love allows us to accept these imperfections, but not to be bound, nor completely defined, by them.

In these days of anger, hostility and suspicion of the “other” displayed in the public square, and at many political rallies, the basic understanding that imperfections and brokenness are part of each and every human being—that it’s not just the “other” that’s messed up, it’s me too—seems a distant and alien idea.

We could use a little more of what happens at places like Old South, where we gather in the midst of our “issues,” but somehow manage, through the love of God, to transcend them—at least to some extent. It doesn’t always work, but it comes pretty close most of the time. Somehow in that shared sense of shortcomings, we are able to live out kindness and compassion, respect and care—knowing that “my life would suck without you.”

About smaxreisert

I'm a United Church of Christ pastor serving the small, faithful Old South Congregational Church, United Church of Christ, in Hallowell, Maine. I was ordained in Massachusetts in 1995, moved to Maine in 1997 and have served the Hallowell church since 2005.
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