Connection as antiote to despair
Listening to Christian Wiman speaking on the podcast On Being (which is possibly my favourite podcast of all), I had a sudden ah ha moment!
He said (and I’m paraphrasing) that he realised that his religion needed the structure of church. That his natural inclination is to be solitary, to pray alone and to read books, but he needs to church to keep him turned outwards, otherwise after a few months of being alone, he looks up and realises he is full of despair.
Yes! This is exactly what it is for me too. I am an extremely introverted solitary person, I’m self employed and rarely meet with people for work and I am actually very happy with this situation.
I have two ‘with people’ things in my diary each week – band and church. Both of them mean that I meet with people who I wouldn’t necessarily choose to be with. They are different to me. And that is a very good thing. I realise this especially when there are big political things in the news, people I am ‘friends’ with on Facebook because of band post things which I disagree strongly with. That’s ok, we don’t have to be alike and it is far too easy to only mix with people who are like us, creating echo chambers of our own opinions.
Time and time again I question why I go to my church, a teeny tiny (20ish attendees) Church of England old fashioned liturgical church, most of the congregation are much older than me. I would like worship to be different and the congregation to be more mixed in terms of race, age and background (and more lively), but I can walk to church, I see the congregation when I am out and about with Buster, or walking to town. I continue to think about finding a different church, but I do need to go to church, even if it isn’t as good as fit as I would like. If I don’t go to church my faith is entirely solitary, it forces me to mix with others.
Like Christian Wiman, I too look up in despair when I don’t attend for a while. It reminds me that I am not alone on this path, even if I am not walking in the footsteps of others in my church we are all heading in the same direction, I just tend to get lost in the woods, caught in the brambles and fall into puddles.