Senior Speech-Philip Kocheril
Good morning. My name is Philip Kocheril, and this is the only church I’ve ever been a member of. Though I was born and baptized into the Syrian Orthodox faith, as was the familial custom, I have lived in Champaign and attended Emmanuel since I was born, and I think of myself as an Episcopalian. Regular Sunday attendance is rare for my generation. Actually, most of my friends are atheist, and some of the others who claim to believe can’t find a reason to get out of bed on Sunday morning. But I find it worthwhile to get up and attend Sunday worship.
Life can be very stressful. The past four years of high school, I have participated in a number of clubs and organizations, performed countless times, studied many hours, and learned quite a lot about life. A short while ago, when the stress was getting to be a lot for me, I came to church and meditated on what I was doing in my life. I didn’t know where it came from, but a kind of solace washed over me, and I felt calm. This is now how I feel whenever I come to church. For me, the church is a mental and spiritual resting place, where I can come to find peace.
And I feel that a large part of why I continue to come to church is the community here. I have no relatives within a 7 hours’ drive, so the people of Emmanuel have become a sort of family for me. In the past month or so, I was lucky to be featured in the newspaper multiple times; each time I was, I was greeted with a shower of appreciation, and sometimes newspaper clippings, by the people of Emmanuel. Normally, I have a hard time accepting congratulations, but I felt at peace and comfortable with my Emmanuel family.
But perhaps the biggest reason I come to church is the intellectual stimulation. I like being part of a church where reason is one of the three pillars on which it was founded. I would consider myself a deep thinker, and often find myself lost in my own thoughts, pondering the ramifications of some property of the universe or historical event. When I think about religion, however, I tend to struggle a little bit. Usually, I can come to some kind of conclusion and get back to whatever I was doing, but with religion, I never seem to have an end to my thoughts. And perhaps that is the point of religion: that we will never fully comprehend it. We hear it every time, “the peace of God which passeth all understanding,” and yet we still even subconsciously try to quantitatively define the enigma of religion.
I find myself wondering if this is perhaps a deterrent for people my age to come to church - the lack of complete knowledge about something. In this day and age, we know more about the world in which we live than we ever have. Technological advances allow us to understand the makeup of the universe well beyond what we could ever see with our own eyes. And yet, no amount of technology will ever make religion concrete. Maybe subconsciously, the people of this generation do not attend church to preserve their image of the “Information Age.”
But isn’t that the point of religion? Believing in something that is greater than yourself, greater than all of us could ever be, and putting faith into the morals and traditions of that construct? Religion is meant to teach us, and offer us a way to process life. If science is meant to process the world and explain it to us, while religion is meant to explain how we should interact with the world, then it is easy to see how they could conflict, and why some may think the two are mutually exclusive. However, I do not believe this is true. I think science and religion are not only not mutually exclusive, but dependent, because credence in only one of them creates a world without perspective.
I think that we, as humans, need both religion and science in our lives to create a balance. Everything that humans need is a balance, from nutrition and exercise to education and interaction. For me, this balance means studying math and science, pursuing music, and maintaining faith. All of these things are important to me and my well-being. I understand that life is going to get a lot harder for me in the next few years. But I think that I need at least some form of connection with each area. That is why, even if life gets in the way of coming to church, I will never abandon my conversation with God.
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