Top 10 reasons to belong to a faith community

Who are the people helping you through this pandemic? I have neighbours, friends, my book club, and writing circles. I also have a core group of people who support me in all things: the fellow members of my progressive faith community, tirelessly doing good in the world. Here are my top 10 reasons why they are my peeps.

10. Critical thinking

There are faith communities out there that don’t tell you what to think. (There are. Really.) There are faith communities that say, “Yeah, I don’t know what it’s all about either, but let’s explore this mystery together.” Churches, mosques, synagogues and temples provide places for you to sit and listen and ponder fundamental matters.

9. A community of support

When life brings you to your knees (and it will) a faith community helps you through. The connections forged at deep levels in these groups help people to rebuild lives after tragic events like the loss of a child, the early death of a spouse, or global pandemic.

8. Lifelong learning

“I am still learning,” Michelangelo said. An insatiable curiosity drives happiness, and faith communities come with an endless supply of brain teasers.

7. Singing!

Our popular culture provides so few opportunities for belting out a tune. If you want to sing, play the guitar, or bang a drum, we have the place for you. Best of all, when you sing in these venues, even a solo, you don’t have to be perfect. The audiences are very forgiving.

6. Child education

What does the wisdom of Solomon mean? Under what circumstances might one require the patience of Job? What is a David and Goliath situation? How many prodigal sons, or daughters, do you know? Have you ever been the Good Samaritan? Our societies, our art, and our literature contain religious references which would be meaningless without adequate education about our heritages. 

5. Ritual

Humans create rituals. It is what we do. Jumping into, or out of, any particular activity without some form of ritual feels wrong. At a hockey game we introduce the players and sing the national anthem. At graduation ceremonies we wear gowns, deliver moving speeches, give individual rewards, and have a group celebration. Faith communities provide grounding rituals for the most pivotal moments in our lives. Sometimes the comfort of ritual is all that gets someone through the night.

4. Peace

When I returned to church as an atheist adult, I did it for my daughter. I was shocked to discover there was something for me too. At the time I had a young baby, I worked full time and we had just moved to a new house. I was stressed. When I went to church each week, I left my baby in the care of the nursery workers and sat in the pew. I expected to sit and roll my eyes at everything the minister said. Instead each week he said something that made me think.  Each week he said things that surprised me, challenged me. Each week, at some point, I had tears in my eyes. That hour of peace fulfilled a need I didn’t even know I had.

3. Helping others

Faith communities pick up where social agencies drop off. The charitable donations and volunteer activities of members of all kinds of faith communities keep many aspects of our society afloat. Clothing donations, homework programs, soup kitchens, food banks, emergency assistance, global outreach. The charitable deeds amount to millions of volunteer hours and billions of dollars.

2. Creativity and growth

A former minister of mine used to say, “Do it, and you’ll grow.” This simple statement encouraged many to take on tasks that made their fingertips tingle with fear. Our involvement with faith communities pushes us to do work that stretches us past our comfort zone.  Every time we climb over our fear and break through that barrier, we grow. We learn to get past fear. Are you brave enough to deliver a Christmas basket to a family in need and share the experience in their home? Would you teach Sunday School? Preach a sermon? Do it, and you’ll grow.

And the number 1 reason to belong to a faith community . . .

1. Fun

So many of the activities in faith communities are just plain fun!

A country lane through a grove of trees.
Photo by Donald L. Smith © 2014

14 thoughts on “Top 10 reasons to belong to a faith community

  1. karen

    Raised a Catholic, unfortunately I saw and felt too much that made me finally belt out “no thanks!” to all the hypocrisy in our community….your points made me want to seek a community again – but an inclusive one that celebrates critical thinking and discussion. Cheers to your fellowship, Arlene.

  2. marianbeaman

    I have always had a faith community, as you may guess from my memoir. Each day I seek God’s face as I read scripture and pray, knowing I need strength and grace beyond myself. A group of women, I call them my Southern Ladies, have gathered before, (gingerly during) the pandemic, and we text each other regularly, sharing prayer requests.

    I was heartened by your point on Peace, “When I returned to church as an atheist adult, I did it for my daughter. I was shocked to discover there was something for me too.” Churches must be welcoming to ALL.

    Great post, Arlene!

  3. kyoungtravels

    Wow! You’ve articulated what I’ve always believed about my faith community as well. I found myself nodding and agreeing with every single point. Wonderful post, Arlene.

    1. Arlene Somerton Smith Post author

      Oh my goodness, once again, I am way behind on my comment response time. Life has been . . interesting. I am always so pleased to hear from you. I missed your blog, and I’m glad to see there is a new post for me to enjoy.

  4. Joni

    I was raised Catholic but stopped going to church decades ago, but a friend who still goes considers it her meditative time, and that’s a nice way to think of it. The rituals of the mass and the hymns are a form of meditation.

    1. Arlene Somerton Smith Post author

      Yes, very meditative. That was the peace that I found early on. When I was a kid in a small town, church was purely a social thing. I saw my friends, we ate a lot of homemade squares. That was all I needed then. The need for peace came later. Our needs change over the course of our lives, and it’s a good thing when we can find a place to fill them.

  5. Anne

    This is intriguing to me, as a nonbeliever. I have not yet found a community, but hope to some day. Your experience gives me hope that will – eventually – happen. Thank you for sharing this.

    1. Arlene Somerton Smith Post author

      A careful search is required, because there are many that still have expectations about beliefs. Many days I could still describe myself as a non-believer – certainly when it comes to belief in scripture as fact. I have room for God-ness more than God most of the time.


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