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Growing up I had a super-churched life. My home church held two services each Sunday, and we did not miss either one. Winter meant going to church in the morning, hurrying home for Sunday dinner, and then heading back at 2 PM. My mom didn’t even remove her Sunday clothes. She just wore her housecoat over her dress while we ate. We even pursued phone books on vacations to find a suitable church to visit.

I loved Christmas and New Year’s Day, but those years when Christmas and New Year’s fell on Saturday were not my favorites. Church on Christmas Day, two services on Sunday, an Old Year’s service on Friday, a New Year’s Day service, and then two on Sunday. Whew! And we went on all the special days like Ascension Day and Prayer Day.

I remember a particularly lovely spring evening when my younger brother, Harv, had to park his bike and dress for church. He asked plaintively, “Will we have to go to church on Judgment Day too?”

I didn’t think about church very much. We went as a family and no one asked questions.

When I left home for college nearby, I still attended church. I lived close enough to feel my parents’ presence. They were paying my college tuition; disappointing them by skipping church just didn’t seem right. At times I wished Dad didn’t so quickly ask, “Where did you go to church today?” but I accepted this as part of my life.

After graduating, I taught at a Christian school so I still took church very seriously, but mostly because board members and parents expected me to go to church and paid attention. I enjoyed church as a habit in my life and I liked routine and the community I gained from church, but my heart wasn’t always connected to the practice.

Gradually, however, as my husband, Lee, and I moved further from my parents, I figured out that the essence of my faith did not necessarily correlate with church attendance. We enjoyed the occasional freedom of “Bedside Baptist” and “Church of the Open Air.” There were times we needed a break. Nothing happened to me or my relationship with God when I attended church less often. We kept going, but I really took church for granted most of the time. When we had children we were just as motivated by modeling and parenting goals as actual desire and a love of worship.

In the last few years, however, we have found more comfort and joy in church. We started attending a church where my values fit with our church’s values and worship gives me strength and renewal. This may be why I’m struggling now.

With the COVID-19 pandemic, our physical church services have been canceled for eight weeks and I am grieving.

I miss church with my whole being. I miss getting ready, walking up the steps, hearing the opening music. I miss saying good morning to others around me, the handshakes and smiles. I miss hearing the voices of others as we read the liturgy. I miss the reassuring tones of our pastors’ voices. I miss the music. I miss the children going up for their message, especially those who run up with joyful anticipation. I miss hearing God’s Word and related messages as I sit with others who also want to live for Jesus and make a difference in the world. I miss reciting the Lord’s Prayer and the creeds, voices mingling. I miss singing,“My friends, may you grow in grace.”

I miss the community of church and the joy of worship. Our church has done a fine job with online worship, but it is not the same. I recognize my need for gathering together in God’s name.

Yesterday I listened to the people “in the know” say this will be the worst week yet for COVID-19. I felt scared and worried. I grieved for those who have died and those who care for them. I wanted the comfort of shared faith. I wanted to pray with others. I wanted to hear voices around me singing and talking. I wanted to recite the Lord’s Prayer together. I wanted church.

This too shall pass. Church will reopen. And we will usually go, but sometimes we won’t. Most of the time, however, I will remember this famine and I will go. I may even go on Judgment Day.

Helen Luhrs

An Iowa woman to the core, Helen Luhrs is a recently retired high school teacher who lives in the country near Knoxville, Iowa. Helen and Lee have four married daughters, six grandchildren, a graceful prairie, and a square foot garden.

15 Comments

  • Daniel J Meeter says:

    I’m so with you.

  • Kathy Van Rees says:

    I’m with you too, Helen. And I grew up “churched” just like you did. Even the winter 2 pm second services 😉. I even remember those christmasnewyears weeks when the holiday fell on a Saturday! I once used the term “old years” and my conversation partner thought that was the FUNNIEST phrase.

  • Marty Wondaal says:

    Thank you.

    I had similar experiences as a kid. Church was oppressive, especially the night service.

    Now, I really miss church. Christians need to worship together.

  • I understand and feel the same as you. This is just a rest stop. We will get back to church.

    Blessed Mother’s Day. Be well.

    Mark

  • Bea Vander Pol McGervey says:

    I certainly identify with you. Zoom is wonderful, but need the people contact. Lord willing it will soon rather than later.

  • Clyde Rinsema says:

    Thanks for sharing feelings we all have, Helen.

  • Ed Blankespoor says:

    Thanks Helen,
    As we say, “ absence makes the hear grow fonder. “ Can’t wait to get back, especially for the congregational singing. Ed

  • RLG says:

    Thanks, Helen, for the fond reminder of the old days. I had the honor of pastoring one of those ultra conservative rural congregations (my first). It may have been difficult for many of our members, but life in general was difficult for those immigrant families. And if it was difficult not missing a single worship service at the Christmas and New Year season (including Sundays and the Old Year’s service), imagine the strain on the pastor, doing all those services with a smile, while being the first and last at each and every worship service. How I prayed for snow days and the cancellation of worship. The Christmas and New Year’s season was a strain on our whole family. I remember suggesting to the elders one year that we eliminate the Old Year’s service. You’d have thought I was introducing heresy to our congregation. You can be sure that didn’t happen. The one thing our kids have remembered fondly about our rural congregation was the proliferation of barn talk (I ain’t shitting you) by nearly all our members. Our kids thought, this must be what heaven will be like.

  • Rich Glendening says:

    As a member of the congregation where you worship now, you truly speak about how many of us feel .

  • Valerie Van Kooten says:

    My least favorite weekday service was Reformation Day services. They were always planned to hit the same night as trick-or-treating. Though our parents made us go to church, I remember one year when my sister and I changed into our leopard and tiger costumes, respectively, in the church basement and slunk out to go forth trick-or-treating. My parents had no problem with the trick-or-treating but, by gum, we went to church first.

  • Linda Krol Brinks says:

    Thank you Helen. It was a walk down memory lane. We too are missing the fellowship and singing! What used to be duty turned into privilege. Was raised the same way as you were, except in Western Michigan. And we were always at church because we were the janitors.
    Later served church’s with my husband in rural communities. Some of the best years…Noordeloos, Sully IA and Menno SD!!
    Blessings!

  • Bob Crow says:

    Thanks Helen. You’ve captured how I am feeling, too.

  • Gloria A Stronks says:

    I love that you called it the “Old Year Service.” Only in certain parts of the country did we use that term.

  • […] ideal, although we’ve discovered unexpected gifts in our homely Eucharists. But as Helen Luhrs wrote here on The Twelve last week, we “miss church,” and we long to return to our sanctuary, not least to […]

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