Most of you know that in the fall of 2009 I moved to Canada’s Great White North. I lived on a tiny reserve in BC right next to the Yukon border. I traveled there with my wonderful friend/housemate from university who is an atheist. One of my first goals was to find a church to join, and happily it didn’t take long. Someone took us to one of the five churches in town and we were sold. From the very first meeting I felt welcomed, included, and loved. It was a small church family, with an average of 20-30 people attending every Sunday. The services consisted of singing, praying together, announcements, a sermon, and coffee downstairs. Our fellowship time was just as important as the service.
But church was not limited to Sunday mornings, or even Wednesday Bible studies and Thursday morning prayer. The church really was a family. People helped each other, got together on their own time and reached out to the community in their work and daily living.
What really stood out to me though was how my atheist friend came to church almost as much as I did. And if you ask her, I’m sure it wasn’t because she was getting “converted” – she just genuinely loved the people and enjoyed being a part of the community.
I recently had a conversation with a young woman about her life in Victoria. She told me that she had a few friends there that she enjoyed spending time with, but didn’t really have a strong community. I asked her if she ever went to church, and she said no. I told her about my experience with church in the north and encouraged her to find one, even if she didn’t believe in God.
Reflecting on this, I believe that this is what the church should look like. What does the church look like to non-Christians? A boring way to spend an hour and a half on Sunday? I think the church should be an inviting place for everyone. I think that non-believers should be drawn to church because they know they will find a place of belonging there. Because they know they will be loved and accepted for who they are. And because they know they will find some amazing people who will do just about anything for them.
That is what I found, and I believe my atheist friend found that too, so I know it’s possible. I hope that more Christians will see the importance of community and belonging and strive to be more like my northern church family.