“For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” (Matthew 18:20)
Going to church has always existed as part of my life. In fact, I don’t remember a time when I did not regularly go to church. Even when I wasn’t pursuing God, I went to church. This habit began before I was born. While church has changed a lot for me over the years for a variety of reasons, the church heritage established by my parents remains a foundational reason for my growing faith.
For the first 28 years of my life, I attended a church with a lot of structure. Its formality was comforting, and I learned a lot from the focus on repetition, reverence, and respect. More specifically, attending a church that was formal in dress and action and that emphasized the importance of respect and reverence, impressed several lessons on me that still today play a significant role in what church means to me.
By attending what is known as a high church throughout my childhood and in my young adult years, I developed:
- An appreciation for the events making up the liturgical church calendar and the value in letting them structure my own years and my remembering of God’s goodness. Structure is important for a child’s development, and it certainly was crucial in the development of my faith in God. Additionally, the New Testament talks a lot about how Christians should treat one another. Church history shows a struggle with living that out and serves as a reminder and emphasis for us today of how we should treat one another.
- A deep respect for the church building and a desire to show respect for church by my appearance. The sanctuary and especially the altar are sacred places. Wearing your best and not your everyday clothing is a visible way to show respect for the place and the purpose. While I don’t judge others for dressing casual in church, it’s not a habit I’ve been able to adopt. The respect I learned growing up in a formal church is still with me in the way I act in and dress for church on Sunday mornings. I’ve carried with me an understanding of what it means when something is set apart as well as why respect and reverence are important aspects of a strong faith.
- A habit of structured prayer. Prayer was integrated into every service, sometimes by singing and always by reciting the Lord’s Prayer in unison. I’ve always known The Lord’s Prayer and can still recite it by memory. It is an anchor point for helping me know how to pray. It’s pattern – one given by Jesus to his disciples when they asked him how to pray – is one I still use today.
All of these exist in some way – in more mature ways – in my life today. My church background provided a stability that exists still today both in the structure of time and in the habit of worship. It’s a foundational structure that still provides steadiness for my beliefs, and I frequently recall the consistency that attending church provided me even if I didn’t appreciate it at the time.
If you don’t have this formal background, consider talking to someone who does to understand and gain appreciation for the role it likely played in their faith and, probably, in the faith of so many who attended or still attend a high church regularly.
I am grateful that my childhood was filled with and structured by rich church traditions and wish I’d have realized its value much sooner. Still, recalling it today not only brings renewed appreciation but also allows me to spend time reflecting on the connections it has with my faith as it grows and strengthens today.