Our hosts in Estonia were somberly describing the challenges they faced in maintaining a Christian presence throughout the Soviet era. One Methodist district superintendent had been deported to Siberia during the Stalin era and then executed. The KGB was regularly present at their church gatherings, watching suspiciously to see what was going on.
She is foggy, struggling to find the old gifts of conversation. But she knows me, I think. I
tell her all of the reassuring things that pastors say in such a
setting. "The Creator who has watched over you all of the days of your
life is now holding you in those sacred hands." She smiles and
struggles to respond with words I barely understand.
When I sit in church on Sunday mornings, I sometimes look
around at the other congregants and ask myself, "Why are these people here? Why
did they choose to come to church?" Some people prefer staying at home to
leisurely read the Sunday paper, or go out for a relaxed Sunday brunch. Why
have these people given up their precious spare time to be here?
We Christians believe that we have a moral obligation to point to the pain that the rest of the world can’t see. Others may stroll past the suffering, but we stop and stare, take up an offering, make an appeal and collect blankets, sighing as we do our bit to alleviate some of the misery. That life may not actually be rotten in our part of the world today only increases our guilt for our occasional lapses into joy. How dare we sing when others are sufffering?
Support the Christian Century
The Century's work relies primarily on subscriptions and donations. Thank you for supporting nonprofit journalism.