When someone says they're going to 'church', do you envision a majestic building with ornate paintings on the walls, huge statues of various figures towering over you, rows and rows of pews, and in the center, an altar accented by candle lights and white linen cloth?
Or do you define 'church' as a group of people, embracing moral and spiritual beliefs,who live and work together for the good of themselves and others?
My hubby and I are one of the couples who are elated to be listed as founders of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish, North Huntingdon, PA. In 1978, because of the huge influx of members to St. Agnes Church on Clay Pike, the bishop decided it was necessary to build another structure to accommodate an overflowing membership. At first folks grumbled about being 'thrown out' of a church they'd attended for years and contributed to its prosperity, but it took only a very short time before we came together and embraced the challenge before us. We started from scratch in a fire hall and built the cozy church on the hill that for the last forty years we proudly call our own!
From its inception, not only were the bricks mortared together, the paintings hung, the statues erected, the pews installed, and the altar placed as the focal point of worship, but the wonderful people who became St. Elizabeth Ann Seton's first parishioners, also blended together into one big happy family!
Anybody who visits our church either to attend Mass or one of our many functions is always struck by the family-like spirit that welcomes them with a friendly smile and a warm handshake. Nobody is viewed as a stranger at St. Elizabeth, but rather a potential son or daughter!
Except for those who have joined our church most recently, I believe I know just about everybody who is an active member. I call them by their first names, I ask about how the kids are doing, and I would do anything to help any one of them in their times of need. And, without a doubt, I certainly believe that they would do the same for me and mine. If this isn't family, I don't have a clue as to what 'family' should be!
I oftentimes look around and see that many of the folks who took part in the building of our church are no longer with us. I think back to the great times we had doing everything from polishing pews, putting lights on the Christmas trees, teaching CCD, working at bingo, setting up tables for the parish picnic, and even playing poker in the church hall as part of an annual fundraiser. My soul remembers each and everyone of them with fondness, and I can honestly say they were as much a part of my family as the family I raised under my own roof.
I guess by now you've figured out the definition I use in reference to 'church'.
Yes, it is a building, but more importantly, church is family, and I've been so blessed to have been a member of my church, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, for forty glorious years! Amen! Blessings and Peace!