This week, a parishioner gave me an article from the Des Moines Register which said in essence that people who attended worship during the pandemic were happier. The article even recounted that a psychotherapist was telling her patients who were struggling a bit with isolation during the pandemic to go to church.
Now, as a minister of a church, of course I would love for people to find a church of their choice and be part of the worship and mission life of that community, but that is not why I referenced the article. I think the article speaks to something universal about humanity. We need each other. The people who went to worship or participated in the life of a spiritual community were happier because they felt connected to other people. They had a sense of belonging to something bigger than themselves.
In the year 2000, Robert Putnam wrote a book called “Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community.” In the book, Mr. Putnam notes that many of the civic, volunteer, and religious organizations were seeing a loss in membership. He uses the example of bowling to highlight the disengagement. Over a 20 year span, the number of Americans who bowled increased, but the number of people who bowled in leagues decreased. Mr. Putnam’s premise is that this illustrates a lack of interaction that lends itself to discussions about our civic and communal life. In other words, we don’t talk to each other like we used to because we do not belong to the avenues that allow us to engage with one another, whether or not we agree or disagree.
If nothing else, the pandemic has highlighted for me that we need others in our lives. Whether it’s church friends, or book club friends, or coffee morning friends, or cycling friends, we need to feel like we belong. We were made for life in community, and when you belong to a community it’s good for you, but it is also good for everyone else in the group to have you part of it. So, if you are feeling a little isolated or alone, go to church, or join a class at the Y, or volunteer at the Humane Society, or join a golf or bowling league. It will do us all some good.