Homecoming

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Lately I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about Homecoming. What is a Homecoming? Why have one? When do you have one? Who attends a Homecoming? And if you have one where do you have it?

High schools and colleges have a Homecoming – usually in the Fall, usually around a football game, a bonfire and usually including a dance and dressing up. Families have Homecomings – sometimes during the summer or around Thanksgiving, always including food, and always with relatives you can’t wait to see and some you wish you wouldn’t! Well, churches are known to have Homecomings too. Church homecomings also include food and are usually celebrated in the Fall. A church  homecoming is an opportunity for former members who have moved away to return home for a visit and a chance for us all to gather, to remember, to celebrate and to dream about the future.

In my prior Church there was a doctrine of obligation to attend Mass every Sunday. Every Sunday was like a Homecoming because we had 5,000 people attend every weekend. Not that everyone followed the obligation (we had 13,000+ parishioners, you do the math!), but the obligation existed nonetheless. The obligation certainly put an expectation on folks to attend a Mass either Saturday evening or some time Sunday day or night. Some came, some didn’t. They followed their conscience, and I applaud that.

In the Episcopal Church there is no obligation to attend Sunday Service. No guilt if you do not. And to that I exclaim a resounding, “AMEN!” The invitation to attend is always present, and man, are we thrilled when we see you. I think it’s more healthy that the obligation doesn’t exist. A lack of obligation frees you up to worship God in your own way, on your own terms. Sometimes that includes sitting in a pew on Sundays at Emmanuel Episcopal Church (EEC), and sometimes it might mean you find yourself sitting in another pew in a church of a different kind for whatever reason. Again, you follow your conscience, and you should.

I’ve noticed now in my second summer here at EEC that summers are lighter in attendance. The same was true in my last church as well, and in every church I have ever served. The summers are a bit slower, a bit more sane, and it’s a relief, to be honest! But, the lighter attendance has made me yearn for when you all do come home. I miss you when you’re not at Emmanuel and love it when you are here! Here’s what one parishioner shared with me about attending services over the summer, he said, “I attend weekly because I recognize the refreshing, recharging power of communal worship to sustain me in the week ahead. Nothing obliges me to go, except the desire to reconnect with God, even on a Sunday when I feel as dry as Alexandria has been the last several weeks!”

Another parishioner put it this way, “I’ll be honest with you, Chuck, going to church is a pain in the neck much of the time. I’ve got three kids who aren’t that enthusiastic. I’m often tempted to make Sunday morning the one day that I don’t have to don my drill sergeant hat to get everyone fed, dressed, and out the door on time. Hearing the thump of of the Sunday paper hit my driveway makes my heart rate quicken; I’d honestly rather spend a few hours with the paper and multiple cups of coffee than go to church. Just saying …..”

Then she went on, “But most weeks, I forego my preferences to stay home and head to church because I need what it offers. And what it offers – what I’m seeking – is not cute stories or pats on the back. Though, I do enjoy a good joke in a sermon, but I digress! I go to church because that simple, vital message is what I need.” She continued, “As someone who lives with a fair amount of pain, I want to hear about the One who heals. As someone struggling to be a good mother in a culture that stands ready to judge my every parenting decision harshly, I want to hear about the One who accepts me (and my less-than-perfect-kids) unconditionally. As someone haunted by all that is wrong with the world (the storms, the jihads, the limbless soldiers, the rootless children), I want to hear about the One who will bring about a new heaven and a new earth – and about what part we play in that re-creation.”

So, my friends, why do you go to the particular church you attend? What is it you seek? Please share if you wish.

Peace friends,

Chuck

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5 Comments

  • Sean says:

    Have to nourish the soul. Sunday service is one of few, if only, chances to do that during a typical week.

  • Barbara C says:

    Igo because I am hungry and that is where I get fed. Not with the goodies at coffee hour, although those are always wonderful. I get fed with the Bread and Wine of Eucharist. I get fed in a way that I can’t describe. I grew up in an Episcopal Church where weekly communion was not the rule. We had it on the first Sunday, and Antecommunion on the third Sunday. The other Sundays we had Morning Prayer. Back in those days, children did not receive communion until confirmed, usually at age 12. Unconfirmed children left during the offering on Sundays Communion Sundays. Even though that was the norm, and I had never experienced anything different, it never quite seemed enough.

    For reasons I will probably never understand, I was confirmed at nine, with a group of kids who were all older than I and I didn’t know. The process of confirmation classes was kind of over my head and a big blur. I only remember two things out of the experience: I can still recall the pressure of the Bishop’s hands on my head and the words, “Defend O Lord, this thy Child with all thy heavenly grace….” Not the rest of it, just that. And I remember clearly that when I did take communion for the first time, I knew that something happened. Something changed, or changed me. And that is what I feel every time I receive. That is why I go.

  • anonymous says:

    I disagree Chuck. Sunday service is not an option. You must go

  • Rose says:

    I love this posting, Chuck…could not agree more that the invitation is always there but the obligation/demand is not – for me that’s what makes life so much more fulfilling in the Episcopal Church – I want to come but I don’t want to feel the guilt and angst that I used to feel – you know what I mean. Happy Labor Day.

    Rose

  • Austin Acocella says:

    I love this posting and the question it poses: What do you seek? Following the posted reflection I am reminded that when choosing my faith community I am really seeking a home. By that I mean a place where I feel welcome, am greeted warmly and are nourished. I also seek good liturgy, including Eucharist, music and a deeper understand of scripture and my role in living the word.

    My family and I have no extended family in the DC area. So gathering with our faith community is the closest thing we have to gathering with family. I guess I can add that, like a family, my faith community can be a challenge at times.

    I am fortunate to have found several faith communities in northers Vurginia, each of which provides at least some of what I seek. However, my primary church is Holy Trinity in Georgetown–because, while it’s not perfect, that’s where I find most of what I seek.

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