Adam Snider

Why I go to church

In Religion on January 28, 2009 at 3:13 pm

Since I first visited the Unitarian Church of Edmonton (UCE) four weeks ago, I have attended every week. Part of the reason for this is that I’m still trying to decide if UCE is the right place for me.

But, my reasons for continuing to go to church are more numerous than that one point alone.

I have a number of reasons for attending church, not least of which is the fact that each sermon at UCE is as much about learning new things as it is about connecting with my spiritual side.

My reasons for going to church include:

  • Feeling a connection to god, whatever god may be.
  • Feeling a connection to a caring and compassionate human community.
  • Connecting through physical contact with other people.
  • Feeling more connected to Sara.

Let me explain each of those points in greater detail.

Church makes me feel closer to god

While this may seem like a strange thing to say, given my view of god as something impersonal and largely absent from the day-to-day workings of the universe, I feel closer to god when I attend church services.

I can’t really explain why. I guess it’s just that church brings out my spiritual side. That’s one of the main purposes of attending a church service—nurturing the spirit—so I suppose this should come as no surprise.

Watching people light candles of caring and concern, or lighting my own, makes me feel close to god (and to other people). Listening to sermons sometimes make me feel closer to god. Most importantly, moments of quiet meditation make me feel closer to god.

It’s that last point that, in a way, surprises me the most.

I have always thought of faith and religion as something very personal. The experience of god is a very individual experience. In this regard, it makes perfect sense that a moment of quiet meditation would be a moment where I feel close to god.

What surprises me, I guess, is that I feel that experience more strongly when I’m sitting in my seat at church than when I’m meditating anywhere else.

But, again, church is designed to be a spiritual environment. It’s a place where we can open ourselves up to whatever it is that we believe in.

The nature of the space allows me to open my heart and mind to the possibility of the something greater than myself, and so private meditation within the bounds of the church building tends to be more intense than it would be in another situation.

Church connects me to a real and human community

The second major reason that I go to church is because it is a community. I am a social creature as much as any other human being, so I enjoy the idea of being a part of a like-minded community where I am free to be myself.

While I am not a humanist in the secular sense of the word, my beliefs are heavily influenced by humanist thought. I believe that the human world, the everyday actions that define who we are, is as important and as spiritual as anything supernatural that may or may not exist.

Being a part of a church community, a community made of fellow human beings, helps to remind me of the importance of our humanness. It also reminds me that, as humans, we are more alike than we are different.

This reminder that all humans are, at the core, mostly the same, helps me to move beyond the prejudices and stereotypes that all of us tend to develop. In many ways, I think this is what the first principle of UU—the affirmation and promotion of the inherent worth and dignity of every person—is all about.

Church gives me a physical connection to others

This is a small thing that has a big influence on me.

I’ve read before that physical contact is a basic human need. We are healthier and happier when we touch other people. This is in no way a sexual thing. (Unfortunately, I can’t seem to track down the study I’m referring to.)

I’m not sure why, but I’ve always been a fairly closed off person. I used to be uncomfortable hugging people as a way of saying hello or good-bye. I am not uncomfortable with this anymore, but it’s not something that I do often.

To be honest, other than the occasional handshake with a client or co-worker, I would likely go for days, even weeks without having physical contact with another human being if I was not in a romantic relationship (one of the few places where I’ve always felt comfortable touching another person).

However, despite the fact that I’ve often been uncomfortable touching people, this is more to do with social expectations than any kind of physical comfort. We live in a society where we’re not supposed to touch one another.

In fact, quite the opposite of not wanting or needing to have physical contact with other humans, I enjoy it. It makes me feel happier and healthier.

Because of this, I really enjoy the fact that, at the end of a church service (at least at UCE) we hold hands with the people on either side of us and sing a short song. This simple act of holding hands with people who are, for the most part, strangers, has a powerful effect on me.

It heals me. It connects me to other people. It connects the spiritual to the physical (in my mind, the two are often one and the same, which probably goes back to my humanist beliefs). Without this simple act, I would have far less physical contact with other people, and I would likely not feel as happy as I do.

Church helps improve my connection with Sara

I believe that humans are biologically predisposed to be spiritual. Even atheists engage in spiritual practices (though they may not recognize them as such). It appears to be a part of human nature.

If spirituality is built into our DNA, then is an important and basic part of who we are.

If spirituality is at the core of who a person is, then is only makes sense that I have begun to feel even closer and more connected to Sara (my girlfriend) since we started attending UCE together. While our spiritual beliefs are not the same, the Unitarian church provides us with a place where we can have a shared faith experience.

It’s also got us talking about faith and spiritual matters more than we used to. As we talk about our personal ideas of faith, religion, and spirituality, we get to know one another even more than we already do.

Sharing this important aspect of our lives has, I feel, improved our connection. I feel that I know Sara more intimately than I did before. I feel that I am closer to her than I was before. And I feel even more certain that she is the right woman for me.

Do you attend a church of some kind? What does church mean to you? Why do you go to your place of worship?

  1. meh, I don’t attend, KTT… and apparently less people are doing so – – especially those in the American mid-west, what we typically consider the unassailable bastion of conservative institutions like the church. There was a nicely written article in TIME mag this week about the loss of congregational numbers and the ability of organized churches to support these communities with pastors. You should check it out. A video summary can be found here:

    The last pastor featured was the most interesting(IMHO). Says just because the traditional structure is changing, doesn’t mean faith and its importance is dying. And then there are stalwarts like you.. bucking the trend and seeking out faith structures. Good luck with that. So anyway, just thought I would pass this along because I liked the article and thought of you and your quest. winks

  2. Thanks for the comment and the link, Winks. I’ll definitely check it out when I have a free moment.

    I’m aware that I am bucking the trend somewhat, especially since church attendance have typically been much lower here in Canada than in the US in recent years, and has been going down at a fairly steady rate.

    Of course, I suppose that, in many ways, Unitarian Universalism is not really a typical religion. I’d be curious to see if their numbers were, in fact, going up, while numbers at Christian churches (and other more mainstream religions) were going down.

  3. […] the church? Well, essentially for all of the reasons that I mentioned in my earlier posts, “Why I go to church,” and, “Choosing a spiritual […]

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