Talk to the members of Christ Church in St. Helens, and you will be struck by the many different ways people arrived there:
- Through the church’s annual arts and crafts bazaar after moving to town from Colorado
- By accident after waking too late to attend a different church
- As a transplant from the Anglican cathedral in Kuala Lumpur
- In a last-ditch effort to see if Christianity was big enough to hold questions and doubts
As the Rev. Jaime Sanders, vicar of Christ Church, points out, “What brings people is the desire to worship God, and this is what keeps them in unity as the church.”
This foundational commitment to worship creates space for members of the congregation to be deeply honest in their relationships with each other and with God. Tonia, who, along with her family, will be received into The Episcopal Church during Bishop Michael’s visitation at Christ Church this coming Sunday, comments, “We can be ourselves, truly ourselves, without fear of judgement. We feel ourselves become more at ease month by month, more confident in our unique callings and personalities, more confident in God’s love for us.” She also notes that this makes her more excited to invite people to church, as she knows that all of her friends and neighbors will be welcomed at Christ Church.
Another aspect of this authenticity is knowing who they are as a church, as well as who they are not. In an age where the question “How do we get more people to attend church?” dominates many discussions, people at Christ Church express optimism about the future of their congregation – not because of anything flashy or exceptionally cutting-edge, but because of the richness of the liturgy, the thoughtfulness of Mother Jaime’s sermons, and the caring, personable nature of the community.
“Faithfully do what’s in front of you,” says parishioner Rebecca. At Christ Church, that may mean pitching in to decorate the church for Christmas, driving elder members to doctor’s appointments, or weeding in the church garden, which provides fresh produce for the local food bank. But most of all, it means loving God, loving your neighbor, and living out the motto, “The Episcopal Church welcomes you.”