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Time to Return to Church

As Advent approaches and Christmas draws near, it is time to reflect on the fact that many of our wonderful Quail family have not chosen to return to worship in person, but rather continue to watch our services online. I write this brief letter to advocate that those who are not home-bound due to illness, and who live in the Stockton area, take this opportunity to step back into church worship in person.

The Sunday prior to me writing this letter, we had 196 devices watching our webcast. We know that many of those devices account for more than one person. If we theorize that half of those devices represent just two people, that means 392 people were watching our webcast online.

I believe that many of you who are represented by that number can and should return in person and now is the perfect time to do so. Here are my reasons:

  1. It is important for your spiritual growth in Christ.
    The metaphor of the Church being the “body of Christ” is important. A body only functions as a body when it is connected to the whole. If my hand is not attached to my arm, it cannot function as a hand. In the same way, we can only achieve what we are individually meant to be in Christ as we are present with one another, encouraging and spurring one another on.
  2. It is emotionally good for you to worship with others in person.
    One article that I read considered a study of medical workers done by Harvard’s “Human Flourishing Program”. It found that those who attended religious services frequently (as opposed to those who engaged in private religious practices) were 29% less likely to be depressed, 50% less likely to divorce and five times less likely to commit suicide. In other studies, we have found that regular church attendance is associated with less substance abuse, less smoking and a generally greater feeling of finding “meaning in life.” In short, we are not designed to engage in our faith in isolation and as we gather we are better.
  3. It is good for your children to gather with others in worship and Bible study.
    The same Harvard study quoted above finds that children who attend religious gatherings in person are shielded in an increased fashion from the “big three” problems of adolescent depression, substance abuse and premature sexual activity. This is from a secular study, but as believers, we realize that most of us come to faith as a children or teens, and that foundational faith guides us through life. Christian peers and the modeling of Christian adults that influence our children in a regular in-person fashion are vital for their spiritual and emotional development.
  4. The Bible instructs us to gather and God knows what he is talking about.
    Hebews 10:25 says, “Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another-and all the more as you see the Day approaching."

God made us in such a fashion that he knows we need to gather in order to support one another, encourage one another in our faith walk, and be together as we worship. It does need to be in person unless there is a physical reason for us to be homebound. Virtual reality is not true reality and human interaction around the issues of faith is vital for our growth.

It is too easy to settle into a comfortable habit of thinking that we can “do church” in our PJ’s and bathrobe. It is time for us to value the rekindling of relationships, greeting and meeting one another in the name of the Lord, to sing, pray, worship and grow side-by-side in a way that will expand and grow our spirit. As a practical matter, you may or may not wish to wear a mask as you gather, the choice is yours.

In this season when we celebrate the “in-person” coming of our Lord, let’s make sure that we are in person with one another and lift one another up in our rejoicing.

I hope to see you in church this Sunday.

His and yours,
Pastor Marc

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Sunday, 04 June 2023

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