View from the Back (Why I Go to Church, Part 2)

This post is an attempt at answering a question from Jessica of Faith Permeating Life. She is currently taking a break from blogging, but I encourage you to check out her archives. If you like A Glimpse in the Glass, I guarantee you will love Jessica’s insightful writing about her faith and life.

Here’s Why I Go to Church, Part 1.

When I was in college, I’d sit in the exact same place in just about every class: second row, second from the left. I wasn’t front and center under the professor’s gaze, but I was near enough that I could see and hear everything he or she did. Sitting there, I didn’t have to be distracted by my classmates, since most of them were behind me. I could focus on taking down every word out of my professor’s mouth. I wasn’t without friends in college, but generally I didn’t meet them in class, and I think sitting where I did contributed to that.

In church these days it’s the total opposite. I tend to sit in the back, by the right. I can still hear the Scripture and the sermon fine, but I am sometimes distracted from elements of the liturgy by the people around me. The back, you see, is where people sneak in when they’re late. It’s where newcomers who are unsure whether they’ll fit in sit. It’s where young mothers often sit so they can dash to the vestibule if the baby gets too loud. And the extreme right of the church, for whatever reason, is where most of our homeless congregants sit. Often during Mass I will hear a child fussing, someone asking their seatmate a hushed question, or a homeless visitor talking to someone who isn’t there. And surprisingly, I find it only adds to my enjoyment of the experience.

Honestly, I love the view from the back. From the front, I might only be able to see well-scrubbed families and pillars of the church. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that! God bless those people!) But from the back, I see the whole holy mess, the miracle of the motley crowd God has managed to assemble. I can see people who are lonely, hungry, confused, distracted, crazy, and/or overwhelmed come back to hear the Word and eat the bread and wine week after week. Their dedication humbles me.

My parish is kind of weird for a Catholic faith community. In many ways, we’re on the fringe. Though still proudly Catholic, our focus is sometimes very different, both in liturgy and in the social issues we focus on. We question authority sometimes (shocking, I know!). Going to Mass there is kind of like sitting in the back of the Church. I get to hang out with all the people who are on the edges, those who might not feel comfortable in a more “traditional” church but who are desperate for grace and a chance to worship. I guess I would often describe myself that way as well. And I love us, with our big hearts and our deep flaws and our comfort with what makes others uncomfortable. When I go there, I know for sure I’m in the right place.

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3 thoughts on “View from the Back (Why I Go to Church, Part 2)

  1. Beautiful, Rachel, in both form and content. You really are “the next Anne Lamott” and I can’t wait to read your first book!
    (And now the Pope agrees with your church’s style of Catholicism!)
    With love and joy,
    Carolyn

  2. Pingback: What Is Worship? (Why I Go to Church, Part 3) | A Glimpse in the Glass

  3. Pingback: Lenten Love Stories #6: Home Away from Home | A Glimpse in the Glass

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