So, might I humbly suggest that, at least from a Christian perspective, going to church is not primarily about you? I mean, if all we’re proposing is indulging the already self-indulged, then we are beaten before we begin. Sure hikes are nice. I find spending time in nature very spiritual, but it is not a substitute for going to church. In my experience, nothing becomes more quickly outdated and irrelevant than fervent attempts to be relevant, to be hip, to be with “it”. This is not an excuse to be slackers when it comes to our corporate worship of God. After all, God is deserving of the very best we have to offer in music, in devotion, in the churches we build to God’s greater glory.
In a world of constant and rapid change, more than ever, we need stability. I very much like the way I once heard Archbishop Niederauer address this very issue in a homily. He said that people frequently shared with him their preference for going golfing, skiing, boating, hiking, or even working in their yards on Sunday to attending Mass. His reply, which I paraphrase, was beautiful because it was a simple call to discipleship: Jesus did not say, “Go golfing in memory of me,” “Go boating, skiing, hiking, to the mall, or out to brunch in memory of me.” Rather, Jesus said “Do this in memory of me.” As he spoke those words of Christ he made a sweeping gesture around our beautiful Cathedral here in Salt Lake City. He went on to say how none of the things people often prefer to going to church were bad things, on the contrary, they are good things, but they are made better, that is, more meaningful by our participation in the liturgy in faithfulness to Christ’s summons. You see, it is both/and, not either/or. Likewise, dealing with the issue of church and boredom is also a both/and proposition. We certainly need to find ways to help young people see the importance, the vitality, the beauty, the importance of going to church, but we will not succeed by trying to come up with something new every time a young person, or a group of young people complain that church is boring. Another aspect of this that I will but mention in passing is tradition, which is not stultifying and static, but life-giving and dynamic. I guess my plea is not to throw the baby out with the bathwater.
As a Catholic, the liturgy is the rock to which I cling in the rapids of life. Last New Year’s Eve I was waiting for a Mass at which my oldest daughter, who is fourteen, was singing in the choir, to end. For some reason I made a conscious decision not to attend this liturgy, opting instead to do some work in my parish office. Nonetheless, I desperately wanted to be there at the end of the Mass when the choir sang the Te Deum. You see, my Dad had just been diagnosed with the cancer that over the course of the next few weeks would take him from us. I was hurting and sad, but I felt a deep need to give thanks to God at the end of a difficult year, which I recognized as a great grace from a loving Father. I walked into the church, removed my hat, knelt and joined my heart to this beautiful hymn, being sung in Latin no less. The church was not full (it seats 1,100), but there was a decent-sized congregation, maybe two hundred people. The choir was comprised of all young people most of whom were probably bored. But I know these kids and I know that if I could ever express to them how much I needed what they offered to God that night on my behalf they would agree it was worth it to be there on New Year’s Eve, delaying their plans, their parties, their fun. I am certain that I was not the only one in the church that night who had this need. This is but one example of how going to church is not about you, one that shows why it is so vitally important that you go.