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Faith Column: Skipping church

This past summer I had the good fortune of many vacation Sundays. There were wonderful people preaching for me while I was off. (Some of my congregation insists that I am always somewhat “off”, even when I am present. Perhaps that is part of my pastoral charm!)

I confess that I did not go to church on my days off. I had no autographed bulletins from other churches to prove I went to worship, yet there was value in my time away from Sunday morning worship. As I share my observations, see how many of these you can relate to.

1. It is sometimes a relief to not go to church. After a busy week, sometimes it is good to just give yourself permission to stay home. (It helps you not feel guilty if you continue to make up your regular offering for those Sundays you are off.)

2. When I wasn’t in church, I felt like I was missing out. I wanted a full report of how things went, what happened, who was there and who wasn’t there. I spent more time in curious pondering than if I had actually been there.

3. The longer I was off, the easier it would have been to not come back, especially if I wasn’t the pastor! Getting in a pattern of not coming to church is easy to establish. It would have been easy to make excuses like, “They got along fine without me. Maybe it would be fine not to be there.”

4. Sometimes it is hard to be part of a church. Just like in a family, I occasionally think there is too much drama, too much nitpicking and too much worry about the future. Just like in a family, I sometimes feel the burden of caring about so many people when so many are facing health issues and difficult life situations.

5. It felt very good to come back to church. I love the church and I love the people. I was warmly greeted and even if I was teased a bit for the luxury of such a long vacation, it was affectionate teasing. I know this is where I belong. If I dreaded being here, or only came out of obligation, I should find a different church.

Some people might wish their pastor wasn’t quite so honest and quite so human, but I am 100 percent sure that you can relate to my observations about missing church. Know you are always welcome at your church home. Take a break when you need it, and feel the joy and the love each and every time you come back ... weekly, monthly or seasonally.

May you be blessed with awareness of God’s presence in your lives!