Julie Seedorf: It’s time to get back to the basics at church

Published 2:11 pm Sunday, June 3, 2018

Something About Nothing by Julie Seedorf


The more things change the more they stay the same. That statement played over and over again in my mind this past week. I very seldom write about religion or churches but I had a few things happen that kept the subject of religion in my mind.

Email newsletter signup

Sorting through old magazines given to me by a friend brought me to the past. I found The Lutheran from the year 1994 and an old church bulletin from 1998. Pair those two with a church meeting I attended a few weeks ago and trivia night with questions about the Bible and faith and religion were uppermost in my mind this week.

Let me be clear, I don’t think my church is any different from any other mainstream church today that is struggling for members. I don’t have any answers just observations and questions, and though I might do things differently if I were a pastor and had a church, that does not mean I am placing any criticism on anyone or any religion. These are just random observations from events in my life recently. And you must remember I have only walked in the shoes of being a congregation member, not a pastor.

The title of the article in the The Lutheran was “Looking for user-friendly worship.” This was in 1994. We are still looking for user-friendly worship. Churches change their music, they veer away from the traditional liturgy, change the dynamics of their seating arrangements and altars. We tell people to unplug from electronics, yet we have big electronic screens up front helping lead worship. We don’t hear about sin and condemnation anymore so I guess we can say we have “feel good” services, and yet church attendance is down in our more traditional denominations.

The bulletin from 1998 listed our financial situation in that year. Of course we were struggling in my church. I have been a member for over 40 years and our church has always struggled with finances. Each year everyone worries about how we are going to meet our bills and we have conversation over conversation about how to get members to give more. At times people are made to feel they can only belong to churches if they can contribute financially.

Looking at the bulletin reminded me of a meeting I was at recently, and the main concern was money and could we afford the decisions we were making. In looking at the old bulletin again, the phrase comes to mind, as much as things change they still stay the same. Twenty years later we are having the same conversation over and over again. Yet, by the grace of God our church is still alive, and I would say we were well because we have members. I feel we need to quit worrying about the numbers and concentrate on those who are there. We need to trust God has our back.

That brings me to my upbringing in the Catholic church, of which I am no longer a member, because I decided to change religions so my family could go to church together. But — faith in God and the prayers I learned still stick with me today.

Trivia night we had questions about the Bible and the entire team struggled with our questions. We all had a Christian upbringing and we all still were churchgoers today, yet we got many of the answers wrong, even one on the Ten Commandments. Most of us are over 60, so we hadn’t had a refresher course in a long time. We either don’t listen to the sermons, or the sermon subjects are the same ones over and over and we don’t hear about the basics such as the Ten Commandments anymore.

That brings me to Sunday school and Bible school. Our churches have tried to change with the times so that parents can fit in church with ball games or sports activities. As a result kids do not get the same church upbringing as we did, such as Wednesday evening classes plus Sunday school on Sundays and Confirmation for an entire Saturday morning each week. Bible school was a week-long, all-day event. We might not have wanted to go and we might not have felt it was relevant to our lives at that time, but our parents did and so we were not given a choice. Because of it, even though we failed at trivia, many of those lessons stayed with us to help us through the rough spots in our life.

Today Sunday School time is shortened, and Bible School is only a couple of hours for two or three days. Is it any surprise our kids do not consider it a priority when our churches cut back for society? If churches don’t prioritize what they teach, why should we expect our children to learn it is important? 

Maybe what needs to change is not the churches, but us and our attitudes and our priorities. Maybe we need to quit fighting about finances in our churches but trust the life of our church to the God we are worshiping. Maybe we need to embrace others and make the people a priority. Maybe we need to accept those who are different and realize we that sit in those pews are really the same especially when it comes to our flaws and our failures. Maybe we need to hear the doom and gloom of sin.

As I read the old articles I concluded that our churches have changed, and changed and changed. And yet, we are still arguing about money, and our Sunday schools are empty as are our church pews. Maybe it is time to get back to the basics so that on trivia night we adults, along with our kids, have had a refresher course on the Ten Commandments. And quoting the old song “Put a little love in your heart” sung in the olden days by Jackie DeShannon, “And the world will be a better place for you and me.”

Wells resident Julie Seedorf’s column appears every Monday. Send email to her at hermionyvidaliabooks@gmail.com.