Yesterday our church, like most other Christian congregations throughout the world, was filled with men, women and children singing Alleluia in celebration of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The music, the floral arrangements, and the cheerful spring decorations all combined to make this most important day in the Christian year a very special one indeed. Some came because of the beautiful Easter music. Some came out of habit, it being the thing to do at Easter. Some came to please their partner or parents. I pray that some also came for a word of hope and grace in a world that often seems to be filled with anything but!
That said, I know that many people come to church not only at Easter, but also most other Sundays, because of the fellowship they find here. Community is important. This is true of other faiths as well. I am reminded of the Jewish man who told everyone that he was really an atheist but still attended services at his local synagogue every Sabbath Day. Asked why he did this when he was not a believer, he replied: “See Mr. Schwartz over there? He comes to the synagogue to visit with God. I come to the synagogue to visit with Mr. Schwartz.”
Well, that man was on to something! Little did he know perhaps, but his decision to visit with Mr. Schwartz each week at synagogue has probably improved his health immeasurably and even extended his life by several years. He is likely happier because of that connection too.
Ever since the publication in 2000 of Harvard sociologist Robert Putnam’s ground-breaking book, Bowling Alone, we have become acutely aware of the breakdown of community organizations and the decline in civic engagement that is so important to democracy. It turns out, however, that community engagement has a powerful impact on one’s personal health and well-being too. Hence the importance of our friend’s weekly, face-to-face visits with Mr. Schwartz!
Over the coming days I will be looking at the book by Canadian psychologist Susan Pinker: The Village Effect. How Face-to-Face Contact Can Make Us Healthier and Happier. Given that studies by Putnam and others show an increased loneliness among Baby Boomers, this book is a must-read for all Boomers who want to explore how to live a life that is healthier, happier and more meaningful. For there is no doubt about it: we are happier together!
For now, I leave you with the quote with which Pinker prefaces her book:
“You cannot live for yourselves. A thousand fibres connect you with your fellow-men; and along those fibres, as along sympathetic threads, run your actions as causes, and return to you as effects.” — Reverend Henry Melvill, 1856