I was raised with the understanding that God didn’t care if I went to church or not as long as I believed. My mom’s philosophy was my introduction to spirituality although I didn’t know it at the time. My aunt went to church so I would occasionally go with her. I became interested in the religious teachings and philosophy. I needed to explore it so I chose to attend church regularly. I was baptized and went through the process of “confirmation” to become an “official” member of the church.
I joined the choirs, youth group, taught bible school, attended Sunday school/bible study, was a nursery monitor during services and babysat for the minister’s children. (as well as for other parishioners) Was involved in raising money for the addition to the church that included a lounge, church offices, kitchen, classrooms and a multi-purpose room. A time capsule, which I am in, was placed in a corner of this building. I was blessed when I was able to go on a missionary trip to New Mexico at age 15. Later I attended regional youth conference events and my senior year was voted youth group president. If I wasn’t at home or school, I was involved in something at church.
I left for college eventually returning to my hometown years later and attending services occasionally. I left the area a few more times before moving back with the intention of it being permanent. I ,of course, attended church a few times. I always thought my relationship with the church was like that of the one with my parents…that it would always be there for me when I came home. This time though, I remember feeling like an outsider in a place that used to feel like home.
Then I made the crucial phone call that put everything into perspective for me. You see, my daughter played basketball so I called the church to see about using or renting the multi-purpose room for her to practice indoors. The secretary asked if I was a member of the church and of course, I proudly answered yes. She asked my name so I told it to her. A minute or two passed and she returned to the phone telling me that I was not a member of the church according to her records. I hung up the phone in disbelief, confused and I admit, a little angry.
Granted I had been gone for some time and not an “active” member but the fact remained that my membership to the church as far as I knew, didn’t have a contractual financial obligation or an expiration date. As I sat thinking about this, I remembered what my mom always said about God not caring whether or not I went to church, just that I believe in him. I found peace in knowing that my relationship with God had not changed, only my relationship with the church had.
So I ask you, has religion lost its intended purpose and become a business?