I used to be irritated by such people. Then I became one.
We are actually on the verge of joining a new congregation. If this were a relationship, we have gone beyond casual dating; we've met the parents, so to speak; we're going steady but haven't set a date. (And for their part, they're between pastors, so things seem a bit in flux there as well.) But we haven't really become joiners; we haven't volunteered for anything other than contributing items to the church yard sale. And, truth be told, we don't attend church as regularly as we used to, even though this congregation is closer to our home.
Sometimes I get the guilts here in Slackerville. But other times -- well, it feels good to simply sit in a church pew without feeling the compulsion to sign up for the lector rota or that new discussion group; without knowing where the congregational bodies are buried and what interpersonal or political Sturm und Drang is roiling beneath the calm surface of the worship service. Sometimes it feels just as good, if not better, to commune with the Holy in the context of a peaceful Sunday morning with Fellow Traveler and the four-leggeds, sitting in our pajama pants (the humans, not the animals) and enjoying one another's company.
I know that admission will not endear me to some of you reading this; certainly not to the Internet church nerds constantly bemoaning churchgoers who want congregations to do things for them instead of wanting to do things on behalf of the congregation. In my defense, I can only point to a former function of churches that seems to have gotten lost amid the contemporary emphasis on looking outward, not inward: care of souls. I don't hear a concern about that in circles where the compulsion is to scold churchgoers for not being more active and engaged; I don't detect a lot of interest in learning the why of people like me; people who've dialed back their participation in the life of their congregations, or who linger at the margins. Maybe some of the citizens of Slackerville aren't slackers; maybe they're the exhausted, the wounded, who need a stretcher to carry them off the field -- maybe even affirmation that the sidelines are where they need to be.
The thing is...I'm tired. I have been the good church do-bee for a long time, but now, in the words of Scotty the engineer, I canna do it. I canna do it physically or psychologically. When I go to church, I am going there for rest and refuge, not to get an assignment. Perhaps this is a temporary state until my health resolves. Perhaps it's going to define my participation in a congregation for the long haul. I'd like to think that, in the latter case, there would still be a place for me in the Church to just be.