I don’t want to go to church!


Each morning I wake up and reboot my internal calendar. Cobwebs clear and the day before me comes into focus. With retirement comes a letting go of many daily obligations. It is a joy not to think in Monday to Friday terms anymore. No more work day grumbling and moaning. Life still provides many commitments, but there is a lovely sense of freedom. In the words of Harry Chapin, “I let time go lightly”, relishing this new pace of life with my hubby.

The obligation of Sunday morning Mass attendance remains. And, an obligation it continues to be. I struggle most Sunday mornings to drag myself to church. If not for my faithful and committed hubby, I would probably have stopped going years ago.

I blame my aversion on too many years of putting up with priests who were either anger provoking or less than inspiring. Dysfunctional behaviour is probably worse than mediocrity, but both can be a challenge for us poor souls in the pews.

Yes, yes, I know that it is not the church of the priest. WE are the church. But, as with any organization, the health of the organization is directly affected by the quality of its leadership. Our parishes and worship reflect the clerical-centric structure of the institutional church. The priest has the final word in parish administration; lay councils can only advise him. The priest leads the prayer. The priest breaks open the word at the homily.

Some priests are truly gifted pastors, and blessed is the parish or community that they serve. Some are kind souls, but simply lack liturgical or homiletic skills. Some are overly harsh and judgmental, showing disdain to the less-than-perfectly-Catholic. Some are just too lazy to put much effort into the task of preaching.

I’m not a patient person, and my patience is wearing ever thinner as the years go on. I’m tired of feeling like a hostage on Sunday mornings. I’m tired of going to mass out of guilt rather than genuine desire. I’m tired of leaving the church tired and depressed rather than rejuvenated and nourished.

The Eucharist is the source and summit of our liturgical life. It is meant to be a foretaste of the Kingdom, a touch of heaven on earth. What can we do if it feels less than heavenly? What do you do?

7 thoughts on “I don’t want to go to church!

  1. Interesting. I am sort of the opposite: been there regarding the “not” and now trying to urge myself to attend.
    Suspect that you are experiencing what so many – especially young people – experience. Liturgy is not automatic, regardless of what our clergy and the trads insist. Sacred liturgy is Sacrament in Person with person(s). It is, for me, an encounter between me/us as sentient people with the divine; a mystery yes but the divine as being “sens-ible”. If the sens-ible that is the sacramental does not encounter us as human it does not do what it is meant to do: “give grace” (duh, okay), but, like the spouse whom we haven’t been with for some time but loved in absence there is connection, renewal, refreshment. Problems, issues and experiences since last being together – the pragmatics – are caught-up upon, in the refreshment of re-encounter.
    For me, Sacrament per se, is, like Baptism, like marriage, not repeated, it breaks the bounds of space and time; Liturgy is like coming home, briefly, before I head back out the Fort McMurray.

  2. I know many people who don’t want to go to church — and don’t. The answer of the institutional Church — and of many (perhaps most) clergy is to label these people as ones who are not serious about their faith ….
    I believe that perhaps an important part of the cure for the malady of not wanting to go to church is to find an Intentional Eucharistic Community, or to start one. Then, one finds that one DOES want to go to church……..

  3. This sounds like the cycle of victim-villain-hero. The people in the pews are the victim; the cleric-centered priest is the villain; and everyone is looking for something from the outside to come in to change it. My experience is that is does not happen that way. Individuals have to step off the cycle and consider how they themselves want to respond. Do they want to continue feeling guilty, tired, and depressed? Or do they want to feel nourished and rejuvenated? If the latter, then what could they do for themselves to feel nourished and rejuvenated? Attend a guided retreat, connect with a new spiritual center, find a spiritual home or group that nourishes them, and share your new ideas or actions with an open heart to others.

    My advice is to let go and resist complaining about changing what is not in one’s locus of control. Instead, stop worrying about the system, and focus on what feeds you. That could attract others who yearn for feeding and nourishment too.

    I’ve been in your shoes, and it is miserable. I used logic, and pleading, and heart-felt conversations with our pastor to try to change him into what I wanted him to be–for what I thought was the good of the parish. When I finally let go of yearning for what I could not have and instead spent my energy in focusing on what nourished me, it made a huge difference. I stopped feeling angry and victimized. I shared with others that working to BE the kind of parish (an people) we wanted to be should be our focus. Stop doing things you don’t want to do, and going to things you feel coerced into going. Instead figure out what you do want to do and how you want to show up when you are there. Then do it

    We started going to Sunday Mass, not to get fed by the priest but by each other in the good works we planned and the conversations of support for each other after Mass. We decided we were a community building, peace loving parish. If our priest made decisions that felt hurtful to us, he was the boss. Each of us politely did what he or she felt was important to do. Teach the kids religion? Then teach whatever materials you are given AND add a little more of YOU to it. Build fellowship? Organize breakfast after Mass or bring rolls and coffee to share in the parlor. Worried about sick shut-ins? Organize taking communion to them each week after Mass. And we formed small faith communities that met in homes monthly. That domestic church became was our true “Church.” When we stopped trying to change him, we used our resilience to change ourselves..

  4. So much wisdom, and practical advice Marceta. You have given us much to ponder. Thank you!!!

    I’m blessed to be part of a small faith community that keeps me centred, supported and nurtured. I don’t know what I would do without this wonderful group of women! Together we share our joys and our struggles. We have the freedom to rant and complain. And, sometimes all we need is a bit of a rant.

    Your parish is blessed to have such strong, community focused and forward thinking souls such as yourself. Your message is a timely one, and deserves to be shared with many. God bless your efforts. May they spread far and wide!

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