The Easter Sunday Attendee: Just Showing Up
I felt like a nominal Christian yesterday when I was an “Easter Sunday attendee” at church.
True, I had attended two church services in February, but I didn’t even watch a live stream this past Sunday because I had gotten my first COVID-19 vaccine shot the day before and was too exhausted that Sunday to do much more than get out of bed.
True, I had gone to extensive lengths to try to “dress up” a little bit yesterday, to look nicer than I normally do. I had planned ahead and bought a new sport coat just for this Sunday. It wasn’t anything flashy or brightly colored — that’s not my personal style anyway, but even less so in this season of grief. But no one noticed unless I pointed it out to them. Maybe it’s just expected of a man my age to have a sport coat and be able to dress up every now and then (especially for church on Easter Sunday).
But for the past year, thanks to the pandemic, we haven’t been attending church in person. We’ve been tuning in to live streams, instead. We have a couple of favorites — one church because we attended there for many years and they have a good live stream, and another because they also have a good live stream and good music. (Believe me, there are a lot of churches out there who haven’t made the effort to improve their live stream quality that I think they should over a year of a quarantined or socially distanced pandemic.)
Before the pandemic, I was what you might call a nominal attendee anyway, at least in recent history. In early 2019, my late wife had left our church of many years, in part to support a friend who was just beginning to attend her own church again, and, in part, because our church of many years could not accommodate her visual and audio limitations. She needed a church with contemporary music and preaching in a traditional environment. She found that in “her new church.” I couldn’t leave our previous church until late in 2019 because of responsibilities I had there, which is a decision I’ll wrestle with for a long time — if I made the right decision about staying for responsibility’s sake or leaving for my family’s sake. But when I joined my wife and son at “her new church,” it didn’t feel right for me and was a difficult transition for me. I didn’t feel connected.
So that’s two calendar years now of being in limbo, in transition, in attendance-but-not-service. A “low” level of church “attendance” that I haven’t experienced in over 15 years. I borrowed from the phrase “a man without a country” to describe myself to a friend as “a man without a church.” To someone who has spent their life in church, it’s a strange, disconnected feeling.
Would my “old church” welcome me back? I certainly believe so. Is it that simple for me? Unfortunately, no, after almost two years away and the unexpected passing of my wife. It’s just different now for me and my son, in a way that I can’t yet articulate very well.
Church attendance right now is tough, and I think that would be true for me at any church. In a large group gathering like that, I feel strongly that I should still wear a mask and observe social distancing, a personal belief that seems to put me pretty squarely in the one percentile (or at least in the very, very small minority). I also just feel disconnected in an emotional and physical way — my world has been flipped upside down with my wife’s passing — and as strong as I think my faith is, as much as I believe in God, it’s still uncomfortable to sit in a group of people who can sing so happily, who can sit so blissfully, who appear to have it together so much better than I do. And it’s hard not to feel like I should be able to portray the same things, even if those around me don’t necessarily have that expectation. It’s still so difficult to shake that expectation of being in church.
But I overcame those fears and anxieties yesterday. I manned up. I woke up, cleaned up, and dressed up. I ate my bagel and drank my coffee, and I showed up.
And some days, just showing up is the best I can do.Posted on April 5, 2021 #Easter