In my travels past and present, I’ve been very moved by the Christians who make it church every Sunday regardless of how easy it is to get there or how comfortable it is inside. I’ve never had to make much of a sacrifice to get to church on a Sunday morning. I wake up and either drive or take the subway to church. And I’ve never attended a church without air-conditioning, comfy chairs, quality music and good production value. In fact, some churches I’ve attended are staffed by incredibly talented professionals, so Sunday mornings are as pleasant as attending a concert for a band you like or listening to an entertaining speaker. Church attendance for me has always been pretty effortless.
In Santa Cruz, Bolivia, I noticed that many of the Christians at the churches we were assisting walk miles and miles to get to church, down dusty, rocky dirt roads, often barefoot and underdressed for the cold. Then they sit on hard benches for a couple of hours in rooms without heating or air-conditioning. And they’re happy to be there.
Would I go to church if I had to walk there barefoot? Or sit on an uncomfortable chair? Or suffer either heat or cold during the service?
In Christchurch last month I attended St. John’s Latimer Square with Al, Ruth & Noah. Again I was impressed by a congregation faithfully attending despite obstacles. Their historic building was badly damaged in the September 2010 earthquake, so the congregation had to relocate until they figured out what to do.
Damage from Sept. 4, 2010 Earthquake
They hired a large tent and relocated the congregation there for the immediate future. While I was there, they announced a planning meeting for members to get together and discuss what to do next… and then Feb. 22 came along.
The most recent devastating quake damaged the church even worse, and Latimer Square has become a triage center for the injured. I checked out St. John’s website today and was so pleased to see that they’re now holding services in a nearby park and picnicking as a community afterward. For many members, it won’t be easy driving on the buckled roads to get to church, but people will do it just the same. They aren’t packing it in, giving up on God and staying home because the building is gone.
How many times have I talked myself out of going to a perfectly comfortable, climate-controlled, non-damaged church because I was too tired or I had other stuff to do or I didn’t have anything to wear? Attending churches like St. John’s in Christchurch and Aposento Alto in Santa Cruz remind me that it’s not about convenience or comfort. It’s about Christ and the community that supports one another in poverty, disaster or even comfort. Inside or outside, hot or cold, flawlessly produced or pieced together music – all those factors are secondary to the privilege of worshipping with other believers.
Praying for the congregation at St. John’s today as they care for each other and their community post-quake. If you’d like to make a donation to help them get back on their feet, click here.