I grow weary of hearing people say, “All organized religion is nonsense created by humans, for profit and control”.
First, I hate generalizations. It’s funny because I can remember a time growing up when that’s all my father used to say to me, “Stop generalizing”. At the time, I didn’t really understand what he meant, but he was right. I used to make statements like, “You always find fault in anything I say”; “This person is always wrong.”; “You never listen to a word I say.” etc… At fifty, I finally understand what my Dad meant.
I admit for a time, when I was being lazy in my faith and wallowing in self pity, I used to say things about organized religion too. I would tell myself that I didn’t need to go to church because God lives in me, etc. “Church is a building”; “Faith is what’s in my heart.”; “God lives everywhere, I don’t have to go there to talk to God.”, etc.”
I was right (on some level), until I landed in the finance office of a church that isn’t of my own religion. (I laugh these days, because God absolutely does know what He’s doing at any given time.) I started there as an account temp because they lost their finance secretary to a full time job. I thought this job would be pretty clear cut: I’d do their finances and leave each day. NOT.
I never expected that as the finance secretary of a church, I would be the only person who got to see what good “a church” actually does in a community. As a lifelong Catholic, my only experience with church was going to Mass on Sundays, receiving the Sacraments and tithing each week or month. I never stopped to think or find out just where my tithes went. I thought they were supporting the church building and the school, period. I never went beyond this in my thinking. Why would I? I just showed up on Sundays, gave what I could, and left.
Until I landed at my current work place.
Yes, it is true that tithes do go to the upkeep of the building and the staff. Church’s are non profit organizations, which means that they do depend on weekly/monthly tithing and gifts from estates and outside entities. Without the kindness and faith of others, they don’t get to exist.
I worked for about six months just trying to find my way in the finance office. No one could help me because the business of the finance office of a church is completely confidential. Thankfully, my life long accounting background afforded me the experience and knowledge to be able to create the statements etc.
What I did not expect, however, was learning just what it means to be a church. What I get to experience every single day is happiness and love. While we do have a small number of staff, who are paid, the place where I work is largely governed and staffed by volunteers who give of their time freely and willfully day in and day out. This doesn’t mean that they just write checks to the church. It means that they come into the office to answer phones, they write thank you notes when we receive memorial donations, they go out to visit the shut-ins and those who are hospitalized, they organize visits to the home-bound, they plan picnics for new members, they create ministries for the elderly and the youth and the children, they buy beds and clothes for people new in the country, they walk in parades, the list is endless. In short, wherever there is a need, they are there.
My “ah-ha” moment came one day the first year of my employment, when a random envelope of cash was received and on the outside it simply said, “Please give to the church”. It was a substantial amount of cash and we worked hard to find out where it had come from so I could give tax credit. In the end, a random person had given this envelope to a congregant who was leaving Sunday services…he didn’t care about “credit”.
The day we finally figured this out, my heart just opened and I cried. Not knowing the story, I envisioned some stranger saving his pennies until he felt he had enough and then he gave it to the first person he saw coming out of services. The person who received this money and turned it in could only say that this was a foreign person who offered the envelope.
My workplace caters to foreigners and refugees and I love it. Several times I’ve gotten to use my Spanish to help visitors looking for the “English as a Second Language” classes, which are hosted by the church. (I have a degree in Spanish yet have never gotten to use it for any reason until now.) (PS-Thanks God!)
The Minsters of this place work 24/7. If a person has a medical emergency in the middle of the night, they jump up and go. Often times during the day, I witness the Minsters going on countless “appointments” to pray with the sick, the lonely, the depressed or those who are trying to figure out “God”, period. They go when they are called, period, and it doesn’t matter how many times per day they are called…they GO.
In short, I’ve been at this place for three years part-time. I’d be there full-time in a heart beat because I’ve finally learned what a church really is. It’s LOVE actualized.
Yes, you can love and pray and worship God all on your own and HE IS there, but a church is a community of people all working together to help others. At least, this is MY experience.
Lots of times I’m the only person who gets to read beautiful letters attached to checks that talk about what this church has meant and why “this donation” is being made and I feel so honored. I look at it as God entrusting me as the go-between. I make sure the donation gets where it’s supposed to, I get to write the thank you note and I get to keep the secret of who gave it. (That’s between God and me and the donor and it’s so fun!)
So. Yeah, I’m weary of hearing that organized religion sucks because it doesn’t. I didn’t even mention all of the money that my workplace donates to local charities OR what it does to take care of refugees from other countries. We receive calls daily from people wanting help on their rent or utility bills and we work in conjunction with other area charities to help as much as possible. I’ve seen our Ministers (and members)buy clothes and shoes for children (sometimes out of their own pockets), buy a bus ticket to get a stranded traveler home, deliver food to those who need it; I’ve even seen them invite a person in to sit in our church parlor to eat a meal and just chat with a fellow human. I could go on and on.
If you think, for one moment, that organized religion sucks. I hope you will do some more research. We give away most of what comes in and what we don’t have to give away, we make up with our own money, time and effort.
I’m so Blessed.
Those who used to know me on Myspace have to KNOW that God led me here to this place and that I’m happy as a clam. I don’t make much money, but my heart is FULL times infinity. I haven’t even scratched the surface here.
I think it’s time for all of us to either re-discover or discover for the first time, what it’s like to be a real member of a real community. Church might just be the first stop. No. I’m certain it should be.
Praise God. (I do.)