Here’s the second bulletin piece I wrote on Sunday morning commitments and church. There just aren’t easy answers for parents. As a new parent myself, I’m pretty sure I know what my answer will be about Sunday morning practices or games or recitals or anything along those lines, but I understand that I may not be the norm! I hope that those reading it can see that I am not condemning anyone here – I think this dynamic is symptomatic of the fact that we live in a time when church is not the bedrock for many that it once was. In a sense, it’s becoming more countercultural to belong to a faith community than it once was – for us as Christians, this is an opportunity to proclaim once again why we believe as we do. In a time marked by so much division and “us vs. them” thinking, not to mention rampant individualism and marginalization, what is more radical than to say we will come together, in spite of our differences, and we will worship Christ, seek to follow Him, and posit our belief that He is in all of us – and we will do our best to find Him and love Him and serve Him. Wow.
Last week I wrote a bit about some of the conflicts that families face today when it comes to Sunday morning activities and going to church. When I was a kid (now I’m making myself seem old!), there simply were not any activities on Sunday morning, the assumption being that attending church would conflict with anything that someone might try to schedule. Things have changed considerably.
As I previously noted, participation in sports, dance and other activities that require practice, training, performing and competition are all good ways to grow and develop character. They are an important means of helping to shape a well-rounded individual. At the same time, it’s important that we keep in mind the simple truth that faith in Christ, learning about his gospel, following him as a disciple are, for us as Christians, the most foundational and fundamental aspects of being a human person in the very fullest sense.
A relative in my extended family will soon graduate from high school. He has been accepted to a great university and is a very likable, intelligent and gifted young man. The last couple years of high school saw him involved in an “elite” sports team. This involvement took him across the state in which he lives, to different states, and occupied a good deal of his life during the week and on weekends. His parents, for the most part, traveled with him and so family life pretty much revolved around this athletic commitment. He has opted to discontinue with his sport of choice this summer he will be getting a job for the first time in his life. I wonder what the role of faith is in his life, or what he has learned about being in a Christian community.
There are those who say, “You don’t need to go to church to believe in God.” This is true, but to be a Christian, one must be part of a Christian community. We do not individually follow a path of enlightenment. Rather, by hearing God’s word and by celebrating the Sacraments we are formed into the likeness of Jesus, who has commanded us to be his Body, one part of another, as we seek to transform our lives and our world. My heart goes out to parents faced with these struggles today. I am sure it’s not easy. I also know that in choosing to come to church, families are making a choice about their precious time – and it can be a sacrifice. God’s peace to us all we seek to find balance with how we use the gift of time.