The Convenience of Religion

By: Gabriela Yareliz

I grew up in the churches where you could find half the church in a hospital room holding a prayer vigil, as someone held the sick person’s hand, while praying. It didn’t matter who walked by. The prayer was loud. Hell, we prayed for the nurses, doctors and whomever was sharing the room. We came so often they knew who we were and that we would be there as visitors as long as the patient was there.

They were churches where you could call the church at midnight and tell the pastor your brother went missing and that pastor would show up in a car at your house ready to start a search party into the dark hours of the morning.

Churches where we bought groceries for people, and we went camping together. They were churches where you would spend hours at people’s houses, and naturally invite them to every big event in your life, not as a formality but because you couldn’t imagine doing it without them.

Today, churches all over the world are striving to foster community. But I guess we should go back to the root of what community means.

Community— it requires being deeply inconvenienced. It requires love. Love always requires sacrifice.

We are proud of our stages, awesome billboards, digital announcements and marketing and our Zoom links. Churches are offering community, they feel. But community should go beyond our gatherings; even go beyond small community group gatherings.

Community is found in the darkest of nights. Community is the people around you at your hospital bed. Community is the person who shows you they care enough to be inconvenienced.

We can keep our Zoom links, if that’s what we think community is— if we think it’s singing worship songs together and discussing Bible passages, and making a list of prayer requests— we are so blinded. Community is the hand that holds yours when it’s too dark to see what is in front of you. We need to redefine community to what it truly means, and then maybe, we will find what we are so desperately trying to counterfeit.

Whose hand can you hold tonight? What perimeter can you walk and pray for with passion until your feet hurt? What can you lift up, even if your legs and arms are shaking? I want to go back to what I knew community to be. It was the knowledge that the beeping on the hospital monitor was scary but that the people who surrounded you made it less scary. Community— many stars coming together to light up a dark sky.

Published by Gabriela Yareliz

Gabriela is a writer, editor and attorney. She loves the art of storytelling, and she is based in NYC.

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