Over the next few articles, I hope to draw out several observations that Lewis gives to us about church. There are several occasions where he mentions church life generally, but they aren’t frequent, so we should be able to maintain his observations more easily than if we were addressing his thoughts on pain or heaven or faith, of which he wrote much more.
Lewis attended Holy Trinity Church in Headington, Oxford, an Anglican church. For all we know, he regularly attended. Both he and his brother Warren, who died after him, are buried in the graveyard outside the village church. If you’ve been to Lewis’ home, the Kilns, you’ll know the church is only a block or two away, a delightful little neighborhood walk.
In letter written in 1950 to Mrs. Arnold, he provides a few points on church life. In an era where individuality is king, it’s helpful to realize that even Lewis, who is huge personality, recognizes necessity of church. First, Holy Communion is the “only rite” Jesus instituted himself, Lewis says. (Arguably Jesus also instituted baptism as well). And Communion cannot be done alone. “The New Testament does not envisage solitary religion,” he says, ” some kind of regular assembly for worship and instruction is everywhere taken for granted in the Epistles. So we must be regular practising members of the Church.”
Lewis acknowledges that people, “differ in temperament.” But no matter if we’re extraverted or introverted, we are called to church. “For the Church is not a human society of people united by their natural affinities,” Lewis says, “but the Body of Christ, in which all members, however different (and He rejoices in their differences and by no means wishes to iron them out) must share the common life, complementing and helping one another precisely by their differences.”
He points Mrs Arnold to 1 Corinthians 12. Verses 12-14 says, “Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many.”
We are called to be members of the body of Christ–the Church. That might make us uncomfortable or give us feelings of vulnerability. We might have a childhood memory that makes church less than perfect because it’s not a perfect place; it’s a redeemed one. We might also think we’re better and less needy than the people found in church. “If people like you and me find much that we don’t naturally like in the public and corporate side of Christianity,” Lewis writes to Mrs. Arnold, “all the better for us: it will teach us humility and charity towards simple lowbrow people who may be better Christians than ourselves. I naturally loathe nearly all hymns: the face and life of the charwoman in the next pew who revels in them teach me that good taste in poetry or music are not necessary to salvation.”
Church is not an easy place, but the world will be redeemed through the church, which Christ bought with his blood (Acts 20:28). Lewis ends his letter to Mrs. Arnold this way: “‘Regular but cool’ in Church attendance is no bad symptom. Obedience is the key to all doors: feelings come (or don’t come) and go as God pleases. We can’t produce them at will, and mustn’t try.”