Foremost, I sit quietly, undistracted by my electronic devices for a few minutes each week. Built into a worship service are all the techniques recommended for stress reduction and health improvement. There is time to meditate, reflect, and practice gratitude and forgiveness. I sing without my vocal talents being judged, listen to beautiful music, and participate in calming rituals.
A faith community offers endless and varied opportunities for service. Volunteering through my faith community is particularly joyful, perhaps because folks are very intentional and mindful of their interactions. My time is respected, my efforts appreciated, and no one comments on my utter lack of artistic ability when I do arts and crafts with the kids in Sunday school.
Our faith community is also multi-generational and diverse, and gives us a chance to get to know folks of all ages and life stages. We interact with people we would not necessarily meet in our daily school and work activities, which provides us a welcome and different perspective.
For my kids, youth group gives them another circle of friends, and a reprieve from the competitive environment of school and sports. They have adult mentors and age appropriate opportunities for exploring faith and service.
I was particularly grateful for our faith community in my saddest days after my father's passing last year. The grief felt heavy and unbearable. My dad died early in the morning on a Sunday. A few hours later our pastor arrived bearing the flowers from the worship service. It meant the world to me that the congregation was thinking of us. The many healing hugs and delicious home cooked meals we received over the next months were life affirming, as was the church service celebrating his life.
It is not a coincidence that our return to churchgoing coincided with our becoming parents twenty plus years ago. The overwhelming responsibility of raising children led us to seek out the support and reassurance of a faith community. The weeks I make time for church, I parent with more patience and live my life more fully.