I could not stop watching the funeral service for President George Herbert Walker Bush yesterday. Beautiful. Meaningful. Dignified. It was a reminder of the importance of family and service to others. But it was also a reminder of the importance of a faith community to enact ritual, create space for grief and reflection, and most of all, to tap into a larger narrative of hope that transcends our singular lives.
American religion is in a fight for its soul right now. Churches and temples are closing every week. If you are not a person of faith, then maybe it’s not that big of deal to you. But if you value sacred space, like at the National Cathedral in Washington D.C. yesterday, or if you value timeless readings and stories and candles and music and stained glass windows and ancient words or a pipe organ that soars with beautiful notes of comfort, then the diminishment of religion in our public life should alarming.
What I want to say to everyone who is related to a church, temple or faith community is this — If you want your community to be there for you tomorrow, then you must find a way to be there for your faith community today. More to the point, if you are a Christian, then this is the sacred season of Advent and Christmas. Attend church. Write a check. Make a financial pledge for next year. Make sure your kids participate. Bring your grandchildren to church. Invite a friend to join you for a Christmas service. Dedicate flowers for a service. Go to a Christmas concert. And for goodness sake, attend church on Christmas Eve, the most sacred night of the year for the Christian community.
There’s only one thing we need to turn around the public diminishment of faith in our nation — We need participation. We don’t need religious fanaticism. We don’t need religious absolutism. We don’t need religious hysteria. We simply need good people who care about God to participate in their faith communities. Whether or not you come to First Congregational Church of Los Angeles during the month of December is not my point. My point is this: Yesterday, in our nation’s capital, we celebrated a President of the United States with dignity and love, and we surrounded his family with comfort and a profound sense of hope. That’s organized religion. That’s church. And yes, that’s faith.
Take a Breath. If you want want your church to be there for you tomorrow, invest yourself in it today.