Have you or someone you know experienced increased anxiety over the past few years? Do you find yourself feeling restless, easily fatigued, irritable? Do you experience difficulty concentrating, excessive feelings of worry or problems falling or staying asleep? If so, you are not alone. Anxiety has increased significantly over the past few years, for what seems to me to be obvious reasons (i.e., social isolation, threat of illness, financial uncertainty, political tensions, and more). Sadly, for some people across the country, church has been a place that has fed into and increased anxiety by painting a picture of the world as a threatening place. But St. Andrew’s is not one of them. My experience of St. Andrew’s is that it is a place where people can find release from their anxieties.
When I watch people entering into the sanctuary on Sunday morning, I see friends greeting each other warmly. I hear the friendly banter and laughter. Then I see people settle down in their seats, preparing for an hour or so with God and community. It’s impossible to know what everyone is feeling, but in general, the people in the pews look relaxed, as if they have a little room to breathe. Then, after the scriptures have been read, the music played, the hymns sung, the sermon preached and the prayers prayed, they get up and move back to their lives with a little more strength and resilience, as if their worries have faded into the background a bit and their anxieties have become a little more manageable. At its best, church is a place where we find God and a community that lightens the burdens we carry, just by being together. Then, released in this way, we, in turn, can go out into the world and help others with the burdens they carry.
If this is your experience of church, I would encourage you to feel confident in sharing it with the people you meet who are in need. If you know someone who is struggling with anxiety or who feels alone, invite them to church. There are a lot of people out there in need. While St. Andrew’s will not fix all of their problems, I believe it is a place where all people can find peace, acceptance, hope and meaning. That peace is present, not because of who we are, but because of the God we worship.