Yesterday morning at staff meeting we talked about whether or not to cancel our regular Wednesday evening activities this week. It was a tough call. None of the forecasters could agree on what the weather was going to be. Some said we could get eight inches of snow. Others said it would only be rain. Eventually I asked, “What do we lose if we cancel Wednesday evening activities?”
We don’t lose money (Wednesday night suppers break even on a good night, and we don’t take up an offering at our Wednesday evening services), but we do lose choir rehearsals, discipleship classes, youth and children’s programs, worship, and one of the most important things of all: fellowship.
What happens around the tables at Wednesday night supper is essential to the life of our community. We need some un-programmed time to talk with each other, laugh with each other, and tell the story of our day. For many of our members who live alone, it is an essential mid-week boost.
I’ve quoted Gary Gunderson before, an expert on faith and health, but look at what he says about the effects of a faith community on health:
“Medical science has noticed that over a life span, people who have a faith community—not just a faith, but a faith community, a local congregation—it is as healthy for that person as smoking is unhealthy,” he said.
Because it’s not just fellowship we share around the tables: it’s love and concern. We pray for each other, check up on each other, and when we’re sick we take each other casseroles.
The leading cause of death in the U.S. is almost a tie between an unhealthy diet and smoking. But according to Gunderson, if you ask the opposite question, “What is the leading cause of life?’ the data says the answer is “participation in a community of faith.”
We eventually decided to call off our regular Wednesday evening activities this week, but we didn’t do it lightly. We knew that if we didn’t call it off some people would fight their way through those 1-2 inches of snow just to be at church, and someone might skid sideways in the road, or slip and fall in the parking lot. We didn’t want to run that risk. But Gary Gunderson helps me understand there is another risk out there, one that many people don’t consider, and that is the risk of not participating regularly in a community of faith.
I hope you will help me get that word out. Maybe you could do it tonight when you’re not at church. Call some people, post on Facebook, write some letters, send some emails. Tell people that participating in a community of faith is as good for their health as smoking is bad. And then, on Sunday, when it’s supposed to be 64 degrees and sunny in Richmond,
Come to church.