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Today I Went to Church, Part 1

Today I went to church. 

I went to a new church for a special service. There’s a church I usually go to, the one my husband works at, but for a special Thanksgiving Eucharist service I went to a new church. 

One of the ways I connect with God most is through traditional, liturgical services.* I love the sacred moments that come along with following the church calendar. Knowing that there are millions of people worldwide coming together for the same worship that has been done for centuries… Awe, reverence, joy, and gratitude are just a few of the feelings that come to mind for me in these moments. 

Some churches have this traditional style of worship, some have more modern expressions, and some churches even have both! This isn’t a reflection on these different styles; instead, it’s a reflection on how difficult it can be to go to a new church. 

Before I even left my house, there was some homework involved. What time is the service? What room is the service in? What do I wear? Where do I park? Do they have coffee or should I bring my own? Is their coffee free or do I need some cash? These were all questions I had after I already decided which new church to go to, a decision that required a lot more homework!

Once I arrived, a new series of questions began. Again, where do I park? Again, what room is the service in? How many people will talk to me before I sit down? Where should I sit? Are they going to tell me when to stand up and sit down? Can I go up for communion even though I’m not a member? Do they pass a bucket for an offering that I’ll need to wave by?

All these questions. All this homework. And that was just to get in the building and begin the service. This doesn’t even count the questions of what church to choose, including what they believe, what they do for the community, etc. 

I’ve attended many churches in my life in a variety of denominations, so I have a general idea of what or who to look for when I go into a new worship space. I also don’t have much fear or anxiety about it. But as I did my research and walked into this new building for the first time, I wondered about how intimidating and nerve-wracking it might be for someone who: 

  • has experienced church hurt
  • has a complicated relationship with God or the church
  • has never been to a church of any kind
  • has never been to a church of that denomination or worship style
  • doesn’t know anyone there or have anyone to go with
  • feels like they have to ask and answer all the questions mentioned above before they can go
  • doesn’t know what questions to ask and feels embarrassed about it once they arrive

Going to a new church can be scary. If you are a person who has attended church for awhile, keep this in mind as you welcome new people into your pew. Keep this in mind as you invite your family, friends, and coworkers to join you. If you are a person who hasn’t been to church in awhile (or ever) and you have these questions and fears, you are not alone. 

Today I went to church. I asked a lot of questions and did a lot of homework to spend just one hour in a new worship space. I remembered how difficult it can be to go to a new church. And I grew in empathy for those who are scared. 

*See the book Sacred Pathways by Gary Thomas for more information about the different ways we connect with God. 

Thanks for making this a part of your day!
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