In 2020, the church looked a lot different than normal. Many churches converted to live streams in order to keep their congregation together during times of social isolation. Despite the fact that the stay at home order required people to stay a part, the need to come together became even more acute. I would dare say that due to COVID and the stay at home orders more people were brought to the church. At least that’s what it did to me.
In August of 2020, I was going through a rough point in my spiritual walk. I was dealing with the recent death of a childhood friend, and going through the process of deconstructing and reconstructing my faith. I lost my job like many did, and felt defeated in my striving efforts. COVID left me feeling very empty and hopeless. I feared that things were not going to turn around for me. As many people do in desperate times, I turned to the church. I started watching a local church's Facebook livestream and quickly became involved in a little church group that met every week. I needed that group at that point in my life. I needed to be heard. I needed to learn, and I needed to be loved and to love.
Those are points that I want to articulate a little bit more: The church gives us an opportunity to be heard, to learn, to love, and to be loved.
Church is an opportunity to love
We all have a story. We all have an individual walk with God. But we also need a place to share our personal walk. That place of sharing needs to be safe and secure inorder for people to present their authentic selves with the church community. How do we go about doing that? We listen. We open our hearts. We empathize, support, and encourage our brothers and sisters in Christ. Each and everyone one of us has a voice. We all have a story. The church should be a place for us to share with no fear of judgement or ridicule. It should be a place where we are acknowledged for our faith and character.
When we are listening to others we are also learning. We need to learn. Going to church gives us the opportunity to learn about the works of God. Not only how God worked in the Bible, but how God is working in the community around us. As Christians we need to learn from each other. We also need to make sure that we are staying grounded in the teachings of God. We need to discuss how these teachings line up with the world we are living in today.
I think that is all the more true for 2021. We are still fighting a Pandemic. We are fighting against poisonous racial violence. We are trying to find justice for the innocent lives who have fallen under hands of hate. These are issues on which we need education. These are issues about which the church needs to be outspoken. We as Christians need to stand up and speak up for those who can’t, and we also need to learn to be quiet and give a platform to those whose voices need to be heard.
With all that being said, the most important thing about church is that it gives us a place to love God and one another. It creates a place for us to cultivate genuine faith. It creates a space for us to tend and care for our faith. In this community of faith we are not only able to see our spiritual growth, but also the spiritual growth of church members around us. For me, that was the great thing about the church group I attended. I knew that when I walked through the door I was going to be met with loving arms. I knew that I was going to be heard. I knew that I was going to learn, and most importantly I knew that I was going to be loved. Love is the greatest thing of all. Love is a reflection of God. And if the church is a reflection of God then the church is giving off love. This love has the power to change hearts and change cities. This is why the church is vital not only for our own walk of faith, but for the community the church resides in.
Madison Myers is a student at The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, majoring in marketing. She has traveled to a majority of America's National Parks and is eager to see them all.