No matter how lovely a porch may be, it can’t take the place of a church. CHRISTOPHER OQUENDO PHOTOGRAPHY Christopher Oquendo Photography
Photo: Christopher Oquendo Photography
Photo: Christopher Oquendo Photography

We can’t expect our porch to replace a pew

Choices at the supermarket are increasing exponentially, so even buying soap becomes a dizzying decision.

Do you want one with deodorant or moisturizers? Are you searching for the scent of cinnamon or roses? And do you want antibacterial or regular?

Since we spend so much time pursuing products, it’s little wonder many people shop for the perfect church.

Do we want a community known for children’s activities or social outreach — or both?

Are we eager to worship in an auditorium with glitzy electronic music and thousands of people? Or in a cozy parish where everyone knows our name?

Some people get fed up with the whole pursuit and decide to worship God on their porch.

This eliminates suffering through soporific sermons, screaming babies and other annoyances like an overactive air conditioner that puts icicles on your nose.

The porch church means you choose the music and readings — and if you start an hour late, who cares?

I totally get this, since I recall the days when Sunday mornings meant sleeping in, enjoying a long, leisurely breakfast — on the porch — and wandering around in my pajamas for hours.

Many Christian friends seemed content praying on their porches, rather than heading to Sunday services.

But when I returned to Catholicism, I realized that Jesus Christ established a church — not a porch — when he said, “Thou art Peter and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”

The early Christians established churches, where they worshipped together on Sundays — but these weren’t perfect places, as the Book of Revelation emphasizes.

There, Jesus admonishes the churches for ills still plaguing many congregations today — materialism, apathy, sexual immorality and lack of charity, for example.

We live in a fallen world, a place where our best intentions often fall flat and our worst instincts sometimes run rampant — so it’s little wonder congregations are flawed.

Still, Jesus said, “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.”

Sometimes, the church itself can become a cross, especially if we seek perfection.

“You have to suffer as much from the Church as for it but if you believe in the divinity of Christ, you have to cherish the world at the same time that you struggle to endure it,” noted Flannery O’Connor.

A communicant at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Milledgeville, O’Connor believed “the only thing that makes the Church endurable is that it is somehow the body of Christ and that on this we are fed.”

Yes, we find sinners in any congregation, but Jesus came to call the fallen, not the faultless. And the porch may be comfortable, but it simply can’t replace a pew.

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Lorraine Murray is author of a spiritual biography of Flannery O’Connor, “The Abbess of Andalusia.” Her email is lorrainevmurray@yahoo.com.

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