This morning I “did church”. It wasn’t a normal service as I typically do. My presence was in response to an invitation extended by a friend and service club colleague to attend a men’s group of which he is a member. This group meets every other Saturday. Their format is simple. Meeting in a church, they first have a formal service led by a clergyman of this church. After the service, they spend a friendly half-hour in coffee and conversation.
Next they break into several smaller groups to discuss a common book all are reading. Numbering about 20, the group chooses a different book several times a year. They all read and study an assigned chapter over the two weeks between meetings. They are currently reading Philip Yancey’s popular book, “The Jesus I Never Knew”.
The discussion was good, and the sharing was great. I’m glad I came. On the way to the meeting I was riveted by the thought that in my ten years of being an Anchorage resident, this was the first time anyone had invited me to a group meeting of this nature. Oh, I know most churches have them. Men’s groups that do retreats and read/discuss books. But I’ve never been invited! Ten years of Anchorage church going, but no invitations. I’ve even inquired in various churches about these types of groups, when made of aware of them, but never received an invitation to join a single one even after expressing interest.
It’s not surprising men will turn out early on a Saturday morning to devote several hours to Christian liturgy, scholarship, and sharing. Many men, women too, have a hunger for something more. It’s a sad commentary no one invites them to a special group, or a good church service.
Recently I fielded a comment from a reader who felt I should stop writing about churches and their practices, and focus on restaurant or movie reviews. I write and will continue to do so because there is a gaping hole in the Anchorage religious scene of which this is an example. We’re a large community. I believe my experience is typical and if so, there must be thousands of men and women who are being ignored and not invited to share some rich spiritual experiences. Today, I’m reminded of the power of one and thank my inviter, Bob, for sharing his group with me this morning. It’s conceivable it will shape my life in some significant way. I intend to pay it forward and invite others to do the same.