In addition to being the pastor of Virginia-Highland Church, I also am teaching a class at Hartford Seminary this year on “Renewing the Vintage Church.” The greatest challenge I struggle to help churches with is that people attend church less and less frequently.
It is clear that folks love our church just as much today as they did in the day when people attended almost every Sunday. The church is still important in people’s lives, but attendance patterns have changed. People simply don’t make it to church as often. I still am convinced, however, that they should, for a variety of reasons.
A rabbi lived in a rural area with his son. As the boy grew, he began to take walks each day in the woods around their home. The rabbi thought it was good for him to explore on his own in order to build his self-confidence. He noticed, though, that the boy was gone longer and longer each day. The rabbi began to worry that his son was straying too far and might get lost or encounter danger. The next morning, he talked to him about his concern.
“I’ve noticed how much time you are spending in the woods,” the rabbi said. “What do you do there?”
“Oh,” said the lad, “I go into the woods to listen for the voice of God.”
“Ah,” smiled the Rabbi, “that is a good thing, but don’t you know that God is the same everywhere?”
The boy pondered a moment and then replied, “Yes, Father, but I am not the same everywhere.”
That is true for us all. My hope is that church is a place where we are different and more open to hear from the God with whom we are in relationship. If not then perhaps people should stay home. Unless you are here on Sunday, though, you may never know …
Rev. Michael Piazza