I grew up attending church, well primarily because my parents made me. For me, church back then meant sitting in a pew, reciting rote prayers and daydreaming through the sermon. As I grew into young adulthood, I just stopped going. A few years ago though, I began to feel an itch that something spiritual was missing in my life. I didn’t know exactly what to do about it, but I decided to try church again. So one Christmas Eve I attended church in the same denomination in which I had grown up. But as I walked home that night, I felt very down because something seemed to be missing. I did not have that warm glow or spiritual uplift that you would normally expect after a Christmas service. But why? I was present, I prayed, and I gave financial support. But something was missing.
A few months later, I decided to try a church in a different denomination. And so one Sunday, I wandered into CHT. I immediately felt a warmth. First, there was the friendliness of the congregation. I vividly remember a woman smiling at me as she left the pew to do a reading. At the end of the service, people attending for the first time were asked to raise their hands to receive a gift bag. I raised my hand, but got missed. Much to my surprise one of the priests came back down the aisle after the exit procession to hand me a gift bag as she noticed that I had raised my hand. Wow, this was very different than the church I had grown up in. I decided to attend again the following Sunday and the Rector intercepted me as I was leaving with the comment: “you came back…I’m so glad to see you”. He and the other priest both remembered my name. I started to attend CHT every Sunday.
Then one Sunday, there was an announcement that ushers were needed for the Christmas Eve service. I had never ushered before, but thought “what the hey”, and volunteered. And that was the start of my service at CHT. Unbeknownst to me at the time, it was also the beginning of my finding out about ministries and how they are a catalyst to developing a closer relationship with God.
As time went on, I got more and more involved in the ministries at CHT. I became actively involved in the worship service as an usher, an acolyte, and a reader. I participated in some of the outreach programs and I joined a bible study home group. I attended numerous adult education programs and had a few “one on one” discussions with the Rector on how to read the bible. The more I participated in the ministries, the deeper my feeling of connectedness with God became. I started to realize that church was much more than sitting in a pew on Sundays and that involvement and participation in ministries and services was a crucial element in the creation and development of a spiritual journey. Ministry participation was what I had been missing all along.
So…fast-forward to the next Christmas. I helped decorate the church, I ushered at the 4pm Service, and I acolyted at the 8pm service. I was pretty tired at the end of it all, but as I walked home that evening, I felt a spiritual uplift and peacefulness. I had felt the presence of God during the beautiful Christmas liturgy. I wasn’t lost anymore. I was happy. I will always be grateful to the Holy Spirit for guiding me to CHT and to the clergy and congregation of CHT who helped me realize that ministry participation was the key to finding a spiritual life and home.