“We are the Church”

Although the venues and the denominations have changed over the years, I have been attending Christian churches my whole life. Baptized Catholic, I spend my elementary years in the Methodist Church, my Jr./Sr. High years (including confirmation) in the United Church of Christ/Congregational Church (which is also where we got married), and then eventually landed, as a parent of my own brood of children, in the Presbyterian Church. The story of that evolution is nuanced and interesting, but mostly it boils down to listening to intuition and trusting that I would land in the right spot at each given stage of my life. 

Cleary I’m biased by my own experiences, but I’ve never been one to believe that there’s just one way to God or faith. Rather, for me, that coming together with others to celebrate God in church depends greatly on the the people who make up the congregation, the people leading the charge, and the way they all put their words and faith into action. This makes our current home at First Presbyterian Church of Hastings (“Where you will always hear a message of hope proclaimed” – something our pastor says each week) such a good fit because Presbyterians are lead not by one person, but literally by committee and groups of people, and the particular groups in our church are quite active about putting their hands and hearts to work to serve others. 

During COVID, like many churches, one way our congregation served the greater good was by live-streaming services only; we continued to do so for many months as society tried to navigate both germs and misinformation. I was able to get way more out of at-home church because I’d watch them on my own while folding laundry which is much different than when I’m dripping in children in the balcony and maybe catch 1/4 of each sentence being said during the service.  We never really forced them to sit in front of the screen for at-home church, but the kids would watch a bit, especially at the beginning and the end.  

Somewhere along the way, our two pastors started ending these live-stream services by singing acapella the hymn, “We are the Church.” In case you’re not familiar, the words go like this:
“The church is not a building;
the church is not a steeple;
the church is not a resting place;
the church is a people. 
I am the church! You are the church!
We are the church together!
All who follow Jesus,
all around the world!
Yes, we’re the church together!”

The little Welschies loved it (so did their parents) and, thankfully, even once we returned to in-person services, this little COVID life habit stuck around, I think because it had a big impact on many of us. Now we sing those words from the beautiful sanctuary of our church home, but it’s the last thing we do before the organist plays out the end of the service and it’s such a sweet little benediction to take with us into the world.  Connecting to God doesn’t just happen in the church. Acting from a place of faith (and hope) isn’t just for Sunday mornings. And, if I can take it one step more, I’d add that seeing the world as a place worthy and capable of love is not just for those who call themselves Christians. 

Spirit moves through all of us and we can feel that connection in so many faceted forms. For me that manifests as feeling God’s presence in church, but also in the greater world, often through the medium of light. Maybe it’s the prairie girl in me, forever obsessed with the clouds, the sky, and how the sun paints them both, or maybe it’s the little Midwest Christian girl in me who spent Sunday after Sunday staring at the stained glass windows of her various churches, paying attention to not just the scenes and symbolism they depicted, but also the way the light – the spirit – moved through them. Probably it’s both, along with the knowledge that light and love will always prevail. 

And should we need a reminder of God’s presence, of the Spirit that brings us all together, we simply need look to the light and see how it shines for each one of us, a little church and container of faith all our own.

*Post 32/52.


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