I’ve heard multiple people say how much they’ve enjoyed the last five months of home church (and these are auxiliary presidents and bishopric members, the kind of people you can count on to substitute teach a Primary class in a pinch). Studying the scriptures however they want, and worshiping each Sunday as a family? More, please. Now that my ward has resumed meeting (masked, in every other bench, without congregational hymns, for a 25-minute sacrament service with spiritual thought), there’s a lot to miss about home church. Ranked:
- Homemade sacrament bread
- Only the good hymns
- “Fast Sunday”-sized sacrament bread and water
- Starting time: Least common denominator
- Couches instead of padded pews
- Lessons that start with, “Let’s go for a walk.”
- Wearing pants to church isn’t an act of protest; it’s the one absolute rule everyone must follow.
So there’s a lot to miss. We could sing together at home, unmasked. We could take as much time as we wanted, or as little as we needed. And it turns out that convincing everyone to wake up, get ready, and leave the house on time is not actually the best way to prepare ourselves for worship.
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But now that we can, this life boat from the Good Ship Zion needs to redock with the mother ship. Maybe you’ll get to do home church for a while longer (and I’m expecting we’ll get a few more opportunities here too before all is said and done), but eventually you’ll need to go back, too.
The problem with home church is that it means licking the frosting off the cake, week after week. It’s fantastic, but we also need spiritual fiber, fresh vegetables and whole grains. It’s too easy for me as an individual or us as a family to focus on our favorite topics and avoid what we don’t want to hear. Eventually, even the best intentioned of us will start to drift into our own favored side currents. Home church doesn’t challenge us with the gospel of Jesus Christ as filtered through the experience and perception of another human being.
At the last regular sacrament meeting the Sunday before everything stopped, the visiting high council member was giving a deeply moving account of his conversion story and how his baptism impacted his personal life and his work in a professional medical field. I noticed that the Youngest Deacon was fiddling with his phone, so I nudged him and said, “Put your phone down and listen, this is important”—just in time for the Youngest Deacon to hear the speaker to say, “…because Darwinism is a tool of the Devil, and always will be.” I tried to ask what he thought at the end of the meeting, but the Youngest Deacon wasn’t talking and still looked troubled when he left the chapel for his next class.
On the drive home, I asked how everyone had enjoyed church. The K-Drama Expert said, “I liked the high councilor’s talk, although I think what he meant was that an atheistic worldview isn’t compatible with the gospel.” Everyone’s Best Friend added, “I could see that his experience was important to him.” And the Youngest Deacon explained that after sacrament meeting, he decided to read Genesis 1 and 2, and he saw that the progression from water to land to plants to animals matches what we know about the formation of the earth and evolution pretty well. That’s pretty good for the Youngest Deacon, I think, certainly good enough for now. More importantly, he found that when he heard something troubling, he could study, read the scriptures, and find answers. And that’s an experience he couldn’t have had without listening to a visiting high council speaker.
We flatter ourselves that a challenging sacrament meeting talk is a bit of sermonizing whose politics just happen to agree with our own, while making our neighbors in the pews squirm, but usually the things we find most irritating are precisely what we most need to hear. Sometimes it’s because those things are a part of the good word of God that we’d prefer to overlook. But the truly challenging talks are often ones that force us to think, to search for meaning, to sort out correct and incorrect, and to double-check what the scriptures say and the prophets teach. And that’s what I can’t get at home church.