I don't know what to call the people with whom I attend church. Fellow congregants is way too cold and formal. Parishioners works, but again, very impersonal. Friends? It works, but is a little to one dimensional, really. This morning I was thinking of our day yesterday, and just how much our church community really means to us and why.
Of course the obvious intimacy of a church community is that we share the Feast of Faith, the Diving Liturgy, come together in community to receive Communion by partaking in the Body Blood Soul and Divinity of Our Lord Jesus Christ. You can't really get more united than that. But then, after that communion, the circles of community continue to spread, like a body of water with a little stone tossed into it.
My church day began with my husband taking the top 7 children to religious education class. I joined them with Melanie shortly before Liturgy began. As I walked into the basement, I saw the room full of children, teachers, two priests and some parents, all working, learning, discussing. There were also the ladies setting up for coffee hour after church. Melanie received many compliments, hugs and kisses, as usual. The bells begin to ring, and the room clears as everyone heads upstairs for Liturgy.
I encounter a family just coming into the building. This family just buried their husband/father this week after a long illness. The wife is my age, the children in junior high and high school. They were immediately embraced, consoled, encircled, if you will. I know everyone was thinking of them during all our prayers. Shortly after Liturgy began, another family came in, one that just had a new baby girl. Again, encircling, embracing, but this time rejoicing instead of consoling.
The families join in prayer and worship and Communion during Liturgy, and then for community and the work of life and relationships in coffee hour afterward. The teens all meld together and so do the smaller children. Babies are passed around, the newest baby in the church is admired and many a mother's eyes mist up at the memory of their own sweet little newborns.
At some point in the afternoon, clean up begins, and the families return to their lives.
I am not expressing this well enough, I know. I was just so struck by the role of a church community, both in our regular practice of worship, and in the aspects of surrounding and consoling when a family is overshadowed by death, or in surrounding and rejoicing when a family is gifted with new life. The encouragement we share when someone is struggling with finances, job loss or illness. We encourage, console, rejoice, share our burdens and our joys. In a world where people are becoming increasingly isolated, it is truly a blessing to have this community in our family's life!