Kjergaards go to church a lot. We go on Christmas morning, after having just gone on Christmas Eve. We go the night before Thanksgiving. We go on New Year’s Day (actually this only happened once or twice). And don’t get me started on Holy Week. If somehow unable to attend church, we’ll have a family service (once Dad tried to serve communion, but we couldn’t handle it).
I knew, at some point, that I would succumb to this Kjergaard need for church and lots of it. I made it through college attending church, but never really becoming part of a church community. I was a slow-starter with church in Boston, although I really did love my Back Bay, typically ugly Lutheran church.
In my mind, the church that I would really be a part of would appreciate the liturgy and many rich traditions. They would use hymnals. The building would have pews. They would have church coffee. They might even have Altar Guild and a church basement. And of course, this church would have lots of young people my age who wanted these very same things!
Well, this church doesn’t exist. I think where I ended up is better. The first time I went I was repulsed by the contemporary music (those young folks and their guitars!) and felt uncomfortable about the number of young families. (Still trying to overcome the fact that married people don’t, in fact, hate single people, and it’s all in my head!) Months later I returned. This time around it feels different. I don’t think the church changed, but, of course, I was the one who needed to be changed.
There were a lot of things that bugged me about the church I grew up in. These things probably still bug me. Ironically, the church that I’m in now feels very similar to my home church. God has a sense of humor. I still don’t really like the contemporary music, and I still love hymns and the BCP, but these things aren’t as important as a warm community (people who talk to you vs. people who tell you not to sit next to them because they’re saving the rest of that pew for someone else).
In the end, I’m comforted by the fact that C.S. Lewis felt grumpy about attending a church that didn’t measure up to his aesthetic standards. This is what he writes:
“I disliked very much their hymns, which I considered to be fifth-rate poems set to sixth-rate music. But as I went on I saw the great merit of it. I came up against different people of quite different outlooks and different education, and then gradually my conceit just began peeling off. I realized that the hymns (which were just sixth-rate music) were, nevertheless, being sung with devotion and benefit by an old saint in elastic-side boots in the opposite pew, and then you realize that you aren’t fit to clean those boots. It gets you out of your solitary conceit.” -C.S. Lewis, from “Answers to Questions on Christianity”
And my conceit is just peeling off. Praise to you, Lord Christ.