"I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings."
~ I Corinthians 9: 23
"Will I be punished for not going to church?"
It was a serious question asked of me during a visit this week with one of my hospice patients. She then went on to share how she had attended a church for several years until she had a "falling out," with someone in the church, "so I just quit going."
When I meet a patient for the first time as their hospice chaplain, I ask about their faith background and if they have a faith community that they belong to? This will often create the opportunity for the person to then share of their faith journey. I meet folks from many faith traditions in the work that I do, but even among the varied faiths, when there has been woundedness experienced by someone in a faith community, they often leave the community, or reject it.
When we leave a faith community, or quit, it is hard for us to remain connected to that which brings us closer to our faith. For those of us who proclaim Christianity as our faith, being separated from a faith community also seems to make for distance between us and the living Christ.
All too often I hear, "I am Christian, but I don't care for it's establishment."
I know it can be a real struggle at times. The challenge when we have been harmed, have a "falling out," or leaving the church for some reason, within our journey we need to find a place to allow for forgiveness. This challenge is especially great because the Church seldom asks us for forgiveness, at least not officially.
That's when I remember that the Church is not perfect. Like most things, it is a human organization that can fail at times to be the living Body of Christ. And as a human organization, sometimes it needs our forgiveness, while at the same time, the Church continues to offer us forgiveness as the living Christ.
I shared with the woman that I think that God understands when we have been hurt.
It is important for us to remember that any community that gathers together is made up of many different people, and even though they may all proclaim to be part of the body of Christ, each person has their own purpose. I always try to remind myself that the Church continues to be a work in progress, made up of people who, like myself, are also a work in progress, who all will one day know the complete love and forgiveness that Christ has to offer.
Stay in God's grip!
G. Todd Williams (c) 2019
Rev. G. Todd Williams is the author of the book, "Remember Me When..." and is a former hospice chaplain and pastor.