This is not the first time I have done this. The reality is that sitting at tables like that feels more awkward for me than most people. I suddenly have to converse with people I may not know. I have learned skills needed to survive these situations but it’s still hard. What proves harder is to pick a table to add myself to. Who do I know well enough that this feels safe? Or, worse, is taking an empty table and hoping someone will join me and that they will be someone I know enough to feel safe.
All the way around, it’s awkward.
The church I attend is friendly and I like the people that I’ve met there. I’m still struggling to remember names, but they are good people. I am not really close with any of them though. Which is what makes the table situation so hard.
A church I used to attend had similar issues. The most common stated need that anyone expressed is lack of connection. People often expect their church experience to be one of connection and community. And the language used in churches propagates that. Feeling part of something is an important human need and churches, theoretically are designed to help with that.
The previous church, despite our efforts to be welcoming never really succeeded at creating connection to make the sense of community to feel strung. People could be part of something bigger than themselves but often struggled to make the deeper relationships that make that community feel connected.
My current church is great at both connection and community, yet I find myself lacking in both there. I realize that a lot of this falls on me. Asking people out for coffee, finding someone to have lunch with after service, joining the Sunday school class or helping with a service or ministry event would help me connect more. I just need to work up the courage to do any of these. And that is one of my goals this year.
The last time I left rather than fight the social awkwardness of seating myself at a table, I struggled through the value of attending church at all. Do I really need church? Or is it just a thing I do. I enjoy it, but is that all it is?
I am certain that we cannot live out our faith in a vacuum. We have to be connected to others to grow in Christ. Scriptures seem to be pretty clear that our interactions with others are reflections of our interactions with God. We need other people.
I need other people merely to keep me from only buying into my own thinking. Scripture appeals to each of us in different ways. Everyone interacts with and experiences God in different ways. I need to learn form your experiences, from what you are learning to get a fuller understanding of who God is and who humanity is. Without that, I am left with a miniscule sample of life and interpreting all of the rest of the universe through that.
But do i need a church for that? I have lots of friends who discuss their faith with me all the time. I can get my connection through them. I can understand God in new ways through them. Do I need to show up someplace at a specific time to meet with a group of people in order to worship together?
Several years ago, I worked with a Hasidic Jewish gentleman. He told me of his idea to set up a community further form the city but he needed 9 other families to move with him to do so. For him, there had to be at least a group of ten adult males of his faith living together to have a healthy community and help guide each other in honest, connected understanding of God. In short his faith needed communal worship to be vibrant, healthy and alive.
I recalled that conversation while weighing my need for church. Sure I can accomplish a lot spiritually without it. But I would be missing something. There is something that can only be gained through communal worship. I don’t’ want to miss out on that.
Now, about getting over walking up to a group of people and asking if I can join them, that may take some time.