Outside my back window I am watching a large flock of birds. They are easy to see because, of course, it is winter and there are no leaves for them to hide in. They aren’t here all the time, it’s actually rare I see such a large congregation in the yard. They seem to flitter back and forth from branch to branch at random. They gather in twos and threes and it almost looks like they are chatting. I see no rhyme or reason to how long they stay in one place or how they choose to go from one branch (and grouping of birds) to another. Maybe an ornithologist would know.
What I notice is that there is something church-like about their appearance. No, not the building but the people. Church people are a bit funny (ok, often we are a lot funny). Watch us after a service (in more normal days) and you will see a flutter of coffee and cookies (and maybe the occasional fruit or veggies platter). You will see a group moving about chatting, laughing, crying, looking serious.
You will see some people are very well dressed (like they are going to go to a very fancy restaurant in one of those castle-like hotels for tea and tiny cucumber sandwiches), others like me much to the chagrin of many who expect more from a minister, dressed how they always do (like they could leave the building and go for a hike).
In a healthy church, you will not only see people of all ages, shapes, ethnicities, and economic status; you will see them interacting, seemingly without rhyme or reason to how they gather in twos and threes, how or when they choose to move from one little bunch to another should seem random, hard to predict.
I have found one of the great benefits to my spirituality to be the gathering of God’s people. Whether you are particularly religious or not you will likely find that finding a tribe will be helpful. People who have been there and done that and people who ask you questions as they approach the places you have been. In short, people who’s experience is different than yours.
There are many reasons I believe a spiritual person does well to go to church (or whatever gathering seems to work for you), but the diversity I have experienced in church gatherings has really been inspiring to me. Jesus spoke to the people (and especially women) he was not expected to, he touched the people no one was supposed to touch, he crossed borders and boundaries and barriers that left people stupefied in his day. It is to his glory when we manage to do this, when we look at all like the birds, because when it comes to humans it is best when birds of a feather don’t flock together, but make space for all the wonderful variety God has made.