18 March 2016

The Day Church (really) Became My Family

Last weekend I was helping at a weekend retreat our church was running for people who are attending Alpha. I joined up with a small group for the videos, discussion, and helped with prayer ministry.

On Sunday before a closing Mass, people had an opportunity to give witness how God worked in them over the weekend. It was beautiful, powerful; the kind that leaves you in awe and speechless of the power of God. As the last person finished sharing, I had a realization: "these people, this church community, they are my family."

I know. That can have hokey, cheesy Hallmark vibes. But it wasn't that way. On a heart level, I suddenly looked differently at people whom on many levels I didn't know other than seeing them in the pew. It just struck me on such a deep chord, that we bring our entire selves to the table on Sunday. And that maybe for the first time in my adult life, I have truly felt like the people I worship with on Sunday are really my family.

We bring our hurt, pain, and brokenness when we come to worship. The Church, Pope Francis writes, is not a museum of saints, but a hospital for sinners. Church (while not just a building) isn't where we come all neat n' tidy, but where we bring our hot-mess-self to find communion and unity with each other and God. 

How many people whom we worship with on Sunday are battling alcoholism? Loneliness or depression? A marriage in crisis? Infertility? Divorce? Sexual addiction? Physical or emotional abuse? Probably a lot, more than we could ever know.

It sounds quite odd coming from a person who has grown up going to church her entire life. But while I grew up in church and knew lots of people who frequented those pews, it never felt like family to me. Yes I knew people, but really didn't know them. I only saw their polished, shiny version. 

Over the weekend on the Alpha retreat, I really got to know some of the people. They shared and poured out their brokenness, which made me feel brave enough to get vulnerable too. I got to know them on a vulnerable level, that place we often avoid to go because it can be raw, painful, and awkward. 

I met and became friends with a beautiful young woman who is walking the same path as me right now; she is not letting the reality of divorce define her. I prayed with and shared tears with people facing different situations in life. I let strangers into my fear and pain, I let them pray and cry with me too.

I realized in that small chapel all those unique, beautiful, and broken people are my people too. We are not different from each other. I belong, they belong. In each of our broken pieces, we belong and find communion with each other and our God.

And for me, this realization is a broken kind of beautiful.

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  1. Patty, this is awesome! I like how this post really challenges us to be a part of our parish and embrace it as our family. Like you, too often I will see people week after week in their particular pews, and I never take the time to introduce myself, never know anything about them, and just see them as "that one family that always on the far right side." Especially since we joined our parish last summer, I've really been trying to see it more as my family and meet more people, even if I don't usually spend much time with them. Like you said, when we get to know the others in the church pews, we discover that they struggle with so many of the things that we do, and that there is so much brokenness that we all bring to Christ together!

  2. This is so awesome, Patty! I'm really glad that your church really is your family, especially during this time, though ideally we always can find a true 'family' at church. Having a community of faith like that really helps--in the hard times of life as well as the easy times!


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