I am not opening this thread in Great Debates because I am not interested in arguing. Persons who feel obliged to say Xtianity sux!, God is dead and I will piss on his corpse!, or Only idjits & Irishmen go to church! are heartily invited to start their own thread.
You may, if you feel it germane, specify whatever demographic information you feel would add value to your answer.
Anyway, to start thing off…
Though I’m a philosophical agnostic and practical atheist, I nonetheless attend First Congregational Church on a regular basis–two or three times a month. In part this is because I have made the best friends of my adult life at this church and enjoy spending time with them. In part it’s because I think the church does good work for the community: among their ministries are ones offering food and clothing to the homeless, groceries for families in need, a Fair Trade store, and a shop to teach people how to build & maintain their own bicycles. The fact that I don’t believe in a personal God or any sort of afterlife is fairly public, and no one blinks at it; the members of Congo are more interested in fellowship and doing good deeds together than doctrinal rigidity.
Skald, 40something, raised as a Pentecostal Christian, now spiritually complex.
ETA: I should have added that persons who attend synagogues, mosques, or other non Christian worship locations are, of course, welcome to chime in.
Sometimes I like to pray and listen to Bible readings and sing hymns. You don’t always get that at a bicycle-repair class. Our local congregation does a little in a quiet way to practise corporal works of mercy, but mainly I think we see ourselves as communal caretakers of a quaint rural historical building where people go to get head-washed, married or buried. We’re disinclined to be noisy about matters of faith and make very little fuss about doctrine either. Lately we seem to spend a fair bit of time praying about each others’ depression, and why not?
Focusing on that which is greater than yourself. Knowing the long-set historical precedents for the reasons we are to do the things that are considered correct. Service above self. Becoming a humble servant of our fellow humans.
My first answer would have to be that I think regular church attendance helps me towards my life goal, which is to pattern my life on the teachings of Jesus. As to how exactly that happens, I’ve heard many answers from many different people over the years. Some people attend church because they’re naturally lonely and church is one place where it’s natural and easy to drop social and communicate with others. Some people may suffer from depression and find that church services are the most uplifting event in their life. Some people may be chiefly interested in charity work and attend church to participate and organize good works with others. Some people may be looking for a place to temporarily escape from the modern world with all its commercialism, stress, and aggression. Some people may find that church helps bolster their relationships with husband/wife/children/others. And so forth.
For me, all of these things and many others are involved with the experience of churchgoing. In summary, I believe that what makes church special is that the mystical experiences of prayer, singing and chanting, processions and rituals and the focus on the mysteries of the Incarnation, the Resurrection, and the Eucharist are what allows many different people, from different walks of life, different races, different social classes, different genders, different ages, different professions, with different goals and different desires, to all join together and not just accept each other, but also to love to assist each other.
I have been asked how do you know if you are going to a good church, and why do you go.
Simple answer. If it is just a meeting place that when you walk out of the door you think that was nice I agree with what was said, but you did not learn anything new. Why did you go.
Me I expect most of the messages to be the type that will have an effect on me. Am I a better person because I attend my church. Am I learning christian values and more importanly am I learning how to truly apply them, not out of guilt but out of love.
Is all that is being taught out of love? And how to use that love. That is what I expect to get out of going to church.
“Spiritually complex” – I like that. That describes me, too. I suppose “agnostic” might be the most accurate one-word spiritual term, but it certainly leaves out a lot.
To be perfectly honest a lot of times I go to church just because of the people. I go to a Mormon ward with just the most amazing people ever, and I have a lot of friends there. I wish I could describe how nice and generous and loving and quirky and wise and talented these people are, but it would take a lot more than one message board post to do that. More than each person individually, though, is the community network that exists – it is the first time in my adult life that I’ve really participated in and gotten to understand a community based on love, where you give service as you can and receive service as you need; I do a lot of musical things for church, because that’s something I’m good at, and there’s always the occasional making dinner for new moms and emergency babysitting and such; and on the other hand, a whole bunch of strapping guys came and helped us move when we moved into our new house, and a couple of lovely women threw me a baby shower, and we got made dinner when we moved, and another woman gave me a bunch of baby clothes, and I could go on and on! I’m getting kind of sappy thinking about it, but it really is true that each act of service between people builds a connection that just makes both your lives that much better, and I never understood that until now. I’m not even sure it holds except when you’re both doing it out of love or at least a desire to serve (and not, say, because your boss asked you to do it; now that I have had experience with this I can see a much more vague version of it taking place at work and among friendly co-workers, and certainly I’ve got coworker friends I’d ask for favors if I needed help as well as have been asked for help – but it’s much less of a coherent community thing).
Though now that I go regularly for that reason, I’ve also found that – well, I tend to dwell on things. A lot. My mom, for example, while she is really a lovely woman, sometimes drives me nuts-- she’s not the soul of tact, and sometimes she says things that are hurtful and I cannot let go of them. At church we’re reminded that Christ will take all those things, that we can just give them to Him – and even if I have my doubts as to whether He really exists, putting myself in that frame of mind makes me a happier and a better person.
I attend a Unitarian Universalist congregation two or three times a month.
The main reason is for community. I am a better, healthier person when I am in community, and my congregation is the most stable, long lasting community I can find. It is also a place where I can explore my faith, or lack of it.
The secondary reason is music. I sing in both the main congregational choir and the chamber choir. Makes me happy.
We’ve just gotten back in church after having been out for at least five years. When I go to church, I have to feel something. I have to feel God’s presence in that building. That is what energizes me for the rest of the week. The churches I have attended previous to our current church have been dead: they just seem to go through the motions. No emotion, no feeling. How can the choir sing “I’ve got the joy down in my heart” when they all look so sad? So, the first and most important reason is to feel close to God.
Our children are the second reason. The church we attend has all kinds of things for our kids to do, and they are learning so much about God there. It was exciting when our daughter was able to recite the books of the Bible for Bible Drill.
The music is the third. My husband and I are in the adult choir and adult handbell chior, and we help with the children’s handbell choir. The kids are in childrens choir, RA’s and GA’s, childrens handbell choir and Bible drill. We get to serve God in the way we know best, and that is musically: and I get to see the kids play handbells, which is something I have loved since college.
For me, a huge part of it is singing in the choir. Singing IS worship for me. When there were many of us, we performed the Fauré Requiem with a chamber orchestra. We’re now down to about eight or ten regular members, two of whom are in the grips of Alzheimer’s. We do simple stuff now. Whatever. It all works for me.
I was saved at the tailend of the Jesus Movement in the 70s. It was a time of people who believed in a personal relationship with Jesus, and who believed in miracles, and that the Bible was God’s word, and preached it.
It was inspirational, and knowing that I was with people that believed this helped my faith, and I had a support group.
In the 80s, IMHO, the whole of the Jesus Movement got co-opted by a quest to be accepted by the secular, and conforming to worldly standards. It looks pretty sad. I backslid also.
I got back with the Lord recently,and the general reasons, now, that I go are because I believe that God shall bless me, somehow, since it is obedience to the Bible commmand to ‘not forsake the assembling of yourselves together’. Also, because I believe that the experiences of the Jesus Movement are going to happen again before I die, and I want to be a part of it. Quite often, though, I find that the ‘good times’ are not yet being repeated, so my attendance is spotty.
I’m somewhere between Cafeteria Catholic and agnostic. I go to mass (when I’m home with the family generally) because it’s a chance to be with people I know, I get to sing with the youth choir (for a little longer anyways), and it’s incredibly relaxing for me. I have about 20 years of essentially weekly attendance, and the ritual is just very familiar and comforting and laid back.
The best priest I’ve ever had is retiring soon though, and I’m going to miss what he brought to my home church - it’ll be harder to keep going.