While I was growing up I went to church religiously – literally. In my younger years my father took me to church ever single Sunday morning. I know he did it for me because he was not the most religious or spiritual person in the world. Then my brothers came along and he and the three of us would all trek to church while my mother stayed home and whipped up brunch.
Then as a tween/teen something changed and I am not sure why – all of a sudden we weren’t going to church anymore. Perhaps life started getting in the way like it often does. Perhaps it happened when we moved from living downtown near the church to living in the boonies far, far away. Eventually I missed church and started going on Saturday nights with my grandmother then we we head over to my great grandparents house and gather with so many of my cousins, aunts and uncles. Saturday nights were huge gatherings every single week. I miss the routine, the family and the love. They have all passed now except my cousins and we live all over the place but we all have fond memories of those days. My uncle, the last of the 10 of them, just passed away and many of us gathered. The memories we were able to focus on were amazing. So many that we were able to piece back together it is like we were all gathered around that table watching the adults play cards while we drank our coffee milks with the smell of true French Canadian Ragu (poor man’s meal) cooking in the background. Modern recipes call for the addition of meatballs – we were poor – there were no meatballs but when we were really lucky we had boiled potatoes with it. Fond memories but to this day none of us can handle even the smell of Ragu – though we do cherish the memories that smell elicits.
Now I am a mother and life is very different. Society is very different. In my earlier days as a parent we did go to church every Sunday. The kids went to Sunday School and between church and Sunday School the entire day was spent there. But that is so hard to do now. The youngest two kids have special needs and making it just through First Communion classes was a challenge. Sunday Schools don’t have one on one aides. They are far less structured than regular school which can result in chaos with special needs children. Plus half the year we aren’t even home on Sundays – we are camping in our RV elsewhere.
Having said that we love church – I know that seems strange but we love the community and the bonds that bring people together. We are Catholic. But there is a small Congregational Church at the end of our street – Westfield Church. Technically there are many churches in very close proximity to us since we live near the center of town. But this church in particular has a strong sense of community. They welcome everyone – from all religions, backgrounds etc… I can bring my kids to events in small doses and no one says a word. This works for us. Prophet Kofi Danso also understands the importance of community and spiritual relationships. We cherish that community even though I would be hard pressed to say it is ours. But our home church – is not very welcoming at all, never does things as a community, and don’t get attached to a priest because none of them stay long. People want bonds and relationships and our diocese seems to be missing the boat on that.
So in closing – religious institutions can only survive in this modern day by understanding people’s differences, celebrating those differences, and creating a community and bonds.