Join a community of believers

It is much easier to pursue a particular interest when we join a group of like-minded people. The same applies to us in the matter of religion. Others can give us much needed inspiration, support and advice.

There is even more reason for joining a community of believers once you have become aware of God's sacramental (symbolical) presence among us. Because we cannot see or touch God directly, God expressed his/her presence in a human individual, in Jesus Christ. Through him it has become much easier for us to relate to God in truly human ways: through sight, hearing, touch and all forms of human interaction.

God's tangible presence in Jesus Christ continues through signs and symbols today. These comprise of shared worship, a common meal of thanksgiving, forms of inner healing, the support of the community, the guidance of spiritual leaders, days of remembrance and celebration, religious functions at turning points in our life and other useful helps.

There is absolutely no reason why you should not enter a church building to say a prayer whenever you feel like it, or attend a service. These churches have been constructed specifically to be open places for any member of the public. You do not need to be a `registered member' to enjoy the religious ambience they provide.

Joining a Christian community as a full member is less traumatic than people often imagine. Most parishes have well-tried procedures to welcome new members and to make them feel at home. If you want to make an approach, ask one of your friends whom you know to be a committed Christian to perform the necessary introductions for you. Otherwise, simply attend a Church service and contact the priest or minister at the end of the service.

There are many Christian denominations, "Churches", to choose from, and all of them, in their own ways, offer community support and a link to Jesus' sacramental reality. However, if I may give a word of personal advice, it is not a waste of time to give thought as to which Church you eventually decide to join.

In general, it is advisable to join one of the mainstream Churches. The smaller the community, the more likely it is to have restricting beliefs, customs and practices. The international Christian Churches have centuries of experience and you are bound to benefit from their `catholicity', their wider vision, their riches of spiritual traditions. To use a comparison, if you have to settle abroad, will you not find more space and choice in a large country?

This brings me to my second point. Within the larger Church, find your niche. Make contact with like-minded groups that can give you the support you need. You may feel more at home in one parish than in another. You will feel inspired by this Christian weekly rather than that. You will come across a wide spectrum of interest groups, some of which will offer you the inspiration and companionship you may need.

To come back to our comparison: if you were to migrate to a country as vast as Australia, would you not consider in detail where within the country you will take up residence? A village in the outback may not suit you; does that mean you rule out Sydney as well? On the other hand, you may prefer the outback to Sydney!

Finally, you will need to give some time to studying the human features of the Church you are joining. It will require some familiarity with its history. All human organizations are mixtures of miserable failings and marvellous achievements. Overstatements and prejudices may need to be cleared up, the reasons for specific practices and customs explained. It is very much like tracing the history of one's own family or nation.

The fundamental reason why Churches exist is that we are social beings. We cannot live on our own. Also in our search for God and our attempt to respond to God, we need the support of community. That is why what happened in Jesus Christ makes a difference to us. God came close to us in him. God continues to come close to us in people.

Next? Go to:

Make the gift of selfless love your highest priority in life

How to stay in touch with God
Still the lake of your mind Think aloud in God's presence Talk to God by talking to friends Join a community of believers Make selfless love your highest priority Feel God's presence in all the love you meet


The text in this lesson is from How to Make Sense of God by John Wijngaards, Sheed & Ward, Kansas City 1995. Tom Adcock designed the cartoons. The Catholic Press Association of the United States and Canada awarded the book a prize on 25 May 1996.

The video clips are from Journey to the Centre of Love (scriptwriter & executive producer John Wijngaards) which was awarded the GRAND PRIX by the Tenth International Catholic Film Festival held in Warsaw (18-23 May 1995). It also received the prestigious Chris Award at the International Film Festival, Columbus Ohio, in 1997.