“Why I Go To Church”
You know, I really don’t have to go to church anymore. After 43 years of pastoral ministry when it was my job to be in church, following college and seminary years where everyone went to church, coming from a childhood home where we always went to church, now I am retired and I really don’t have to go to church anymore. I remember Bishop Handy, one of the old retired African American bishops of the United Methodist Church telling me one day, “You know, when I was a preacher, I used to wonder why people didn’t go to church. Then I became a Bishop and had to go around and listen to all these preachers and now I wonder why people DO go to church.”
So why do I go to church? On a perfectly lovely Michigan summer Sunday morning when I could be sipping coffee on my deck overlooking Platte Lake, why do I choose to make my way around the lake and up the hill to worship at St. Andrews? Hey, I’m not even a Presbyterian! I am sure there are many reasons, some less holy than others, but I am with Richard Kauffman when he says “I go to church to be part of something bigger than myself, to join my storyline with one that started long before I made my appearance in this life and will continue beyond my earthly existence.”
And…I go for the music. Kauffman says, “I go to church to sing. There are so few places in life where people gather to sing anymore. I go to join my voice together with God’s people in praise. It is then that I sense most assuredly that I am in the presence of God.” Of course, I go to hear of the Word in the preaching and I go for the fellowship with God’s people. I go to be a witness to the role the church plays in the world. But the singing of the ancient hymns of the church connects me with long generations and deep traditions. Singing new hymns inspires me with new thoughts and new expressions. Singing gives me the spiritual nurture I need for the week.
The great creative team Rogers and Hammerstein gave us the incredible gift of the American musical. I once heard that their motto was “Make ’em laugh, make ’em cry and give them a song to sing.” Coming to worship might not always make me laugh or cry, but hopefully, it will give me a song to sing.
And that’s why I come to worship.
Jack Harnish, Author
PS: Quotations come from “Why I Go To Church” by Richard Kauffman in Leading Ideas, Lewis Center for Church Leadership, December 15, 2010.