Do I need to go to Church to be a Christian?

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AndrewG
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Do I need to go to Church to be a Christian?

Post by AndrewG » Thu Feb 21, 2013 7:51 am

I have had an in/out relationship with the church through my life with periods of strong commitment and periods on the outside.

I was sent (rather than taken) to Sunday school as a child and, because my family moved a lot experienced different forms of worship. I once attended a small community church where services rotated between Anglican, Methodist and Presbeteryian (Church of Scotland) on successive Sundays.

Through my teens and twenties I kept my faith but saw conventional church as a man made construction that got in the way of what I really believed. There didn't seem to be much mention of cassocks or pews in the bible and Jesus gave the outwardly religious a pretty hard time. I began a life long flirtation with Quaker ideas without ever actually getting to meetings. Needless to say I drifted and my faith was soft and without direction.

It took a disaster (the death of a child) to bring me back into the church. I realised I needed the presence of other christians to sustain me. Even when they didn't know what to say to me I sustained support from their presence. Church became core to my life. I barely missed a Sunday in 20 years and threw myself fully into the life of the church.

But then I had a mid life crisis got myself in a terrible tangle, behaved badly and wrecked my marriage. I got very stressed by the situation I had put myself in ran away to be with my new partner. She is comfortable, even I think admires my Christian faith but is quite hostile to the church particularly the catholic end where, by a process it would be difficult to explain I have found myself. It's seven years since I went to church last. I make Midnight Mass at Christmas and that is about it.

The question is: if I retain my faith, pray and try to live by Christian principles what am I missing by not going to church?
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Do I need to go to Church to be a Christian?

Post by truthseeker » Thu Feb 21, 2013 9:31 pm

Hi Andrew,

i am Orthodox by baptismal, but i've been to many different churches and denominations; i suppose i like going to church for many reasons and most of them are quite contrary to each other; sometimes i like other people " mature christians" to pray for me, sometimes i shy away from everybody and just like to sit in a corner and talk to God, pray to myself. etc;

i mean, may be you are a bit like me - if you have problems, you would want to go church because there you will not be lonely and other people will pray for you, but if this is the whole reason, then church-going is something more of a social self-help group for society which has earthly problems - marriage breakup, loosing loved-ones,etc.

i suppose if you ask do Jesus loves you and acknowledge your faith if you don't go church, i think the answer is ONLY YES!

love and light!

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Do I need to go to Church to be a Christian?

Post by Joe Parrish » Fri Feb 22, 2013 5:29 am

If one is here, one is in (i-)church. Well, at least some of us want to think that. We come here to have relationships, electronic though they may be, but many things one can share in person can be shared here. The brick and mortar type is for those who want some other type of relationship, perhaps somewhat like electronic with skin on it. But not everyone can or wants to come to a Brick and Mortar type church so we have i-church as our only church. The B and M requires more split second responses than we have here, as a myriad of things occur to us before we finish typing so maybe we edit a bit more here. There are values in both, seems to me. Somehow sharing a 'real' tea or coffee and a biscuit/cookie together softens folks a bit. But is not the be all or end all of life, just another aspect of it. Oh, yes, editing a bit as I wrote this, the electronic offerings here are less costly :) :lol:
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Do I need to go to Church to be a Christian?

Post by AndrewG » Fri Feb 22, 2013 8:16 am

But online or face to face you see community as essential to faith?

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Nicodemus
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Do I need to go to Church to be a Christian?

Post by Nicodemus » Fri Feb 22, 2013 8:54 am

Personally speaking, my faith leads me to go to this building called 'Church'. I enjoy the fellowship and welcome that I find there. I enjoy the communal worship and everything that goes with it. I feel uplifted and recharged when I leave and I feel connected to my community through Christian fellowship and carrying on the traditions of generations.

I also enjoy or homechurch group which is far more in the tradition of the early Christian church, meeting in each others houses, discussing things in small groups, worshipping together, praying together, supporting each other.

If these two experiences were denied me, I would still consider my self to be a Christian, ie a believer in Jesus Christ the Redeemer, Son of God, part of the Holy Trinity, but I would feel saddened and deprived and that my spiritual life was the poorer if I was not able to worship with like minded people.

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Do I need to go to Church to be a Christian?

Post by Josie » Fri Feb 22, 2013 9:42 am

Hiya Andrew,

For me, community is essential to faith. I find social situations extremely difficult and can often isolate myself and become very reclusive.

I need both types of church, bricks and mortar and electronic. Meeting people physically enables me to see the joy and love of God in their faces, to be physically embraced and shown love. I find that once the church service is over and we go to the church hall for tea, then the discussions aren't about God or faith but about everyday life. This is something I do need as part of my recovery to join in the community but it leaves me needing something more. I often wonder how many attend church because of their faith and how many attend due to duty.

I find I can be more honest and open here at i-Church. I can ask any question here and not feel silly. I feel like this is a small part of the world where I can escape to and know that there are kind and understanding people who although may have slightly different views, we all have that essential bond deep in our souls. We come here because we either want to or are curious about sharing our faith and love.

Also from a personal point of view, I have and still do struggle quite a bit and I've seen and received such breath taking kindness from the christian community. I try hard to give back or pass on to others the same kindness. The important thing is that if I didn't involve myself in the communities then I may only see the awful side of humanity that the media loves to promote. I would never see how beautiful the human heart can be.


Josie :flowerface: xxxx
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Do I need to go to Church to be a Christian?

Post by AndrewG » Fri Feb 22, 2013 12:32 pm

Hi I belonged to an excellent and supportive church for many years and am certainly convinced of the benefits. I am separated from that right now for reasons I don't want to rehearse right now. I certainly hope to find some of that through I church.

Moving debate on I need the support of a community and to test my ideas against the wisdom of others & I can get some of that through a virtual church but what about the sacraments? Do I need physical access to the outward symbols?

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Nicodemus
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Do I need to go to Church to be a Christian?

Post by Nicodemus » Fri Feb 22, 2013 1:19 pm

I don't pretend to know the answers, but I believe, rock bottom, all that is asked of us is that we believe. The rest is bells and whistles!

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Do I need to go to Church to be a Christian?

Post by Ernest » Fri Feb 22, 2013 6:57 pm

Andrew :cross:

Thank you for being so honest and open. I'm not prying but have been quiet open about my own background. I was born and raised Catholic, but lost that faith completely in my middle years. I left the church, and denied God as a militant agnostic for many years.

My spouse who was Anglican, had to forgo a wedding in Church as I refused to have anything to do with it. She had to wait 20 years before we received a blessing on our marriage, and that only after I joined the Church of England.

Yes, I believe that you can be a Christian by living up to the ideals and Gospel of Jesus, but I also know that Jesus lived in community with his family at first and later with his disciples and followers and friends. His creation of the Church was something as 'his body here on earth' which we could all belong too if we accept his Gospel and declare our faith by calling on his name.

The Sacraments, particularly the Eucharist are outward signs of inward grace. He declared or commanded that the Eucharist be celebrated 'In Remembrance of him' and my belief is that having access to the Sacraments is an essential part of my own faith and practice of my religion as a Christian. So, I receive Holy Communion weekly or more often.

The Anglican Church says that each member should receive communion at least once a year, at Easter or there abouts. I believe that the Catholic Catechism says the same. Other denominations might have different direction.

I also receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation about twice a year at Lent and before Advent. This is part of my own personal practice, although the Anglican Church says that the General Confession and Absolution during a Eucharistic Service or a Service of the Word is sufficient for everyone.

I also look on i-church as a 'Church' in the full sense. It's a recognised and official part of the Church of England, under the auspices of the Diocese of Oxford, the oversight of the Bishop of Dorchester and has an Ordained Minster (Pam) as Web pastor and another (Joe) as Assistant Web Pastor. It's in every sense, apart from the existence online a church and a living and viable, Christian Community. When members have met offline (which happens occasionally) we've greeted each other as long standing friends and fellow Christians rather than strangers meeting for the first time. This is as strong a sign of community as I can think off.

I think of what Jesus said "When one or more are gathered in my name, that I will be there with you" (Matt 18:20). Christians traditionally gathered in small groups, later in large buildings. Gatherings online seem to me to be exactly the same as those offline, just without the physical presence of those gathered.

I know my response may not give you a clear answer, just my personal perspective, but with circumstances that seem to echo each other, perhaps they might at least help you to be a little clearer about how you express your faith, either online or offline. :thumbs:
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Do I need to go to Church to be a Christian?

Post by AndrewG » Fri Feb 22, 2013 7:30 pm

Hi Ernest - you are not prying. If I am holding back it is partly because I want to avoid offloading too much. I have a lot to get off my chest but I'm mindful it may not be as interesting to others as to me. You are right we do have a lot in common. My father was a catholic my mother C of E (in the vaguely approving sort of way people used to be). My mother who had an awful childhood wouldn't become a catholic because she didn't think she was good enough. My father was estranged from his church largely because as an Englishman and a serving soldier he couldn't take the strain of Irish nationalism. My parents weren't allowed to marry in the catholic church. I was bought up an Anglican on the basis I could decide when I was old enough. That was the start of a life long fascination with religion and the differences between denominations.

I am a committed Anglican and, despite what the church is doing to itself, pleased to be so. It's a total coincidence but I even live in Oxford Diocese.

Since I'm being honest and offloading a little I was a Reader(in another diocese) until I messed up. I know the answers to some of the questions I am posing and may not be as needy as I perhaps appear. I have been cut off for a while and am desperate to engage again. I'm not ready to share what my problems are in getting to church yet but I know that's what I should be aiming for. However, I also know God can find a purpose for me on the fringe where I am right now.

God Bless
Have mercy on me, O God, in your great goodness; •
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Do I need to go to Church to be a Christian?

Post by Ernest » Sat Feb 23, 2013 11:28 am

Andrew,

Thank you for clarifying things a little. It must be difficult not to be able to exercise the ministry that you trained for and it sounds that you really loved.

I went through the discernment process for Ordained Ministry and was given a NOT for Ordained Ministry at BAP last May. I'm still struggling to find a way forward as I don't feel called to Reader Ministry, so there are very few other options on offer and empowering the laity is still an aspiration rather than a fact in many places.

I'm fortunate in having huge support in our Benefice and excellent, supportive Spiritual Direction. I don't know if you have access to a SD, or even if you believe that to be appropriate? But perhaps it's something you might consider in the longer term.

Will be praying for you. :votive1: :votive1:
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Do I need to go to Church to be a Christian?

Post by Karen » Sun Feb 24, 2013 1:21 pm

AndrewG wrote:Hi I belonged to an excellent and supportive church for many years and am certainly convinced of the benefits. I am separated from that right now for reasons I don't want to rehearse right now. I certainly hope to find some of that through I church.

Moving debate on I need the support of a community and to test my ideas against the wisdom of others & I can get some of that through a virtual church but what about the sacraments? Do I need physical access to the outward symbols?

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I suppose it depends how often you want to receive communion? It is only in recent years that churches have had a parish communion every week. I like going to the cathedral or the local abbey where no one knows me to receive and there are lots of people there who are doing much the same thing.

I was origionally attracted to i-church by the possibility of community and fellowship online as I had small children and found it hard to get out in the evenings with no babysitting available. I've been part of this place on and off since 2004 and it has built into a genuine community which is held together by prayer. We can be part of a package of Christian commitment which is a bit post modern but works!
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Do I need to go to Church to be a Christian?

Post by Joe Parrish » Tue Feb 26, 2013 5:59 pm

Hi Andrew, :)
Probably a very positive value in being a part of community is the spiritual growth we may be able to engender in each other. Although we are not generally engaging in debate, we learn a lot from other folk, both here and in a B&M church. Either place we can have 'baggage,' old hurts, etc., from the past, but finding a new non-judgmental place or simply one where we are unknown may be a way to find new community.
I happen to live in Manhattan where one of the top reasons given for why people live here is because of their desire for anonymnity. Small villages would probably be the opposite of that. Maybe something in between might work well in some cases.
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Joe :)
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Do I need to go to Church to be a Christian?

Post by AndrewG » Wed Feb 27, 2013 8:35 am

Hi - I hadn't meant to focus this discussion on myself. There are particular issues separating me from communal worship at the moment that can not best be overcome in a public forum. I'd meant to focus discussion on wider theological issues.

I think community is important. A wise minister likened this to taking an ember from a fire. It will glow for a while but without the companionship of its fellow embers it will soon burn out. I recognise that need and am both finding it here and recognising the wider sources of support available to me and that I should be accessing them.

So 'church' is necessary for the support it can offer but for other reasons too: to preserve, develop and carry forward the teachings of Christ, God's revelation in scripture and the leadings of the Holy Spirit. No single Christian has access to the sum total of knowledge (though the internet has brought us closer to this!) - so we are members together of one body, fulfilling different functions, carrying the work of God forward in different ways. In the same way the church acts as a 'brake' on our wilder ideas, as well as hopefully challenging our complacency.

The church administers the sacraments but these are outward signs of an inner and spiritual meaning - Can I access Christ's saving grace without taking communion? What do we believe about Quakers (who don't partake of the sacraments) or indeed the devout of other faiths? Is it the taking of the bread and the wine that matters or bringing myself into communion with Christ and the church (his body)?

And what do we mean by 'church'. Is church the spiritual (& therefore invisible) community of all who are in Christ or its institutional manifestations which, for all the leadings of the Spirit and their basis in scriptures are essentially man made institutions. We need to recognise that the organised church, with all its human fallibility, is for many a barrier to belief. From the inside we know that the Church is necessary precisely because we are fallible human beings. But outsiders see us with all our failings and are put off. What is our task? Is it to show them the love of God or to bring them into our institutions?
Have mercy on me, O God, in your great goodness; •
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blot out my offences.

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Do I need to go to Church to be a Christian?

Post by Pam » Wed Feb 27, 2013 11:51 am

Andrew - I think people have focussed on your experience because both your thread title
Do I need to go to Church to be a Christian?
and your opening post
The question is: if I retain my faith, pray and try to live by Christian principles what am I missing by not going to church?
put your question as a personal one!

I think the question about what 'I' - or any of us - is missing by not going to church is probably the wrong place to start if we want an understanding of the place of the church in the Christian faith.

A meme which was going the rounds on Facebook yesterday struck a chord with quite a few people:
consumer church and missional church.jpg
I like the distinction this draws between consuming church and being church, though I would argue with the idea that 'I' am the church - 'we' are the church, as we affirm in the communion service
Though we are many, we are one body, because we all share in one bread
That of course does raise some questions about sacraments which many people have addressed in depth and, as yet, not come to any conclusions.

[ETA Bishop Christopher Hill's paper about the sacraments in Second Life may be of some interest to those who would like to think this through further.]

Here at i-church we do see ourselves as part of the wider church, part of the Body of Christ represented online, because we are trying to bring the good news of Jesus Christ to people who might not hear it elsewhere. We can't offer communion but we do pray for people, not just individually but also as a group, and meet in real time to worship God.

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Do I need to go to Church to be a Christian?

Post by AndrewG » Wed Feb 27, 2013 12:26 pm

Thanks Pam I can see how the way I set the question - not to mention the info I shared focused the debate on me a little. I am happy to share my experiences where they illustrate a point and hope that helps to keep things real. I just don't want to get into areas that infringe other people's privacy.

Your distinction between consumer church and mission church is a helpful one. It was what pulled me into the church and kept me there when I was last actively involved and will bring me back in due course. There's no use complaining about it because we are it.

Online does have its limitations. For the avoidance of any doubt no one has upset or offended me I'm liking it here. God Bless

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Do I need to go to Church to be a Christian?

Post by Pam » Wed Feb 27, 2013 12:48 pm

AndrewG wrote:Online does have its limitations. For the avoidance of any doubt no one has upset or offended me I'm liking it here. God Bless

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I'm glad nobody has upset or offended you - I think it would have been entirely unintentional if they had.

Part of the impetus for founding i-church was for people who can't get to offline church regularly for one reason or another, or whose church experience isn't filling all their discipleship needs. If you are in or near a town with a good choice of churches, it's easy to forget that there are areas where churches are spread very thinly. Also a small church may not have the capacity to provide discussion groups etc. So we don't see ourselves as being in competition with other churches, more as a part of the body of Christ with our own unique contribution to make to the wider church.

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Post by Joe Parrish » Wed Feb 27, 2013 3:05 pm

Pam wrote:<>

[ETA Bishop Christopher Hill's paper about the sacraments in Second Life may be of some interest to those who would like to think this through further.]
<>
Bishop Hill's article notes some flexibility in how the eucharist may one day be celebrated by some physically and others virtually. I am not sure that other bishops would necessarily agree, but it is his idea nevertheless, and probably a council of bishops would need to agree on that. What is our general practice 'over the pond' is to ask those who come for private confession to then take Communion as part of the sign of their penitence.
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Do I need to go to Church to be a Christian?

Post by AndrewG » Wed Feb 27, 2013 7:07 pm

Wow - fascinating stuff. I had no idea theological thinkers had devoted so much attention to this and had never heard of the Second Life Cathedral. Much food for thought. Thank you.
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Post by Ernest » Wed Feb 27, 2013 9:14 pm

I was just thinking that actually framing a question in a general way can be quite difficult, because even a hypothetical situation will contain some elements of 'us' or 'I' because it's unlikely that we'd be asking the question otherwise. :hmm:

But the beauty of your question and how it has developed is that it has provided a space not just for debate or discussion but for real learning. I hadn't heard of the view by Bishop Hill that Pam posted and I hadn't seen the facebook consumer church=we're church link either. :thumbs:

And this comes back to what i-church is here for. Not to be a cardboard cutout of a church, but a vibrant, living, listening, relational entity on the internet. :coffee:

There you have it in a nutshell :woohoo:
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Post by Jennifer » Thu Feb 28, 2013 1:04 pm

Ernest wrote: And this comes back to what i-church is here for. Not to be a cardboard cutout of a church, but a vibrant, living, listening, relational entity on the internet. :coffee:

There you have it in a nutshell :woohoo:
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