I have pretty much always been a church person. You are asking, "Why doesn't she say 'Christian'"? Two different things, in my mind. I am a Christian, and I am a church person. It seems like I have always been both. But, my being a church person means that I thrived on my childhood of Sunday School, Bible Schools, confirmation, church choirs, of knowing generations of church members as I grew up.
In college, I sang in a church choir in a Lutheran congregation just off campus. I was drafted into the choir because my brother attained the job of choir director while he was studying Music Education. He beckoned all his four siblings to help out as they might. We did. In doing so, I became a member of that congregation. Not in the official sense, but in that I became acquainted with folks who would hold my hand throughout the next couple of decades of my life. How in the world does that work?
After college, (the short story), I got married, and moved to Cairo. Egypt. We newlyweds attended a tiny Lutheran church during the twelve months we were there. Our service was in the late afternoon. As we walked into our Sunday service, it was comforting to know that my parents, in Pryor Creek, Oklahoma, were entering their sanctuary at the very same time - at their 10:45 am service. This somehow helped my deep chasm of homesickness.
Upon our return to US soil, we chanced to become members of several Lutheran congregations, and at one point, ended up in the church of my collegiate years: Salem Lutheran. I still remember our first Sunday at church. We were greeted by old friends, and we were immediately welcomed back into the congregation - this time, married, with children. We flourished.
Today, Sunday, found that Spouse o' Mine and me in our church of the past fourteen years (nearly fifteen!). This morning when we passed the peace, I greeted the elderly man in front of us - a wonderful, joyful retired professor who is notorious in our community for his continued running. In addition to his daily runs, on his birthday he runs a lap for each year of life at the university's indoor track, accompanied by many, many local runners. Passing the peace with a friend from my Lydia Circle, and then another woman whom I admire. At communion, the usher was a cycling friend of mine - she rides probably 3x what I do. And she always has a smile. Our friends, who just celebrated the birth of their first grandchild, had friends and family in from all over, to witness his baptism. So sweet. After church, we visited with some acquaintances whose son is our kids' age. He is now a pilot who flies long-haul to Europe.
And this is what I mean by church. I have a foundation of friends and church members. Even if I am not well-acquainted with any of them, I still feel like I can comfortably make contact with them for any reason at all. This is a community to which I can turn and comfortably find what I am looking for.
I would guess that I could call or email any of my former churches, right down to my childhood church in Pryor Creek, Oklahoma, and someone would be on the other end, saying, "Welcome. You are one of us."
And that, to me, is why church is important.