An Un-Cancelled Church
Nashville doesn’t see a lot of snow. When we do, it appears as shimmery flakes falling like dandruff on the bare ground. It might pile up like so much white dust, but it is soon gone.
This weekend has been an exception. On Friday it really snowed, and that snow lingers even today on roofs and yards and streets. My children did not go the school Friday because of the mere threat of snow, and they were told to stay home again today because of the “driving conditions.”
What we don't have in snow, we make up for in churches. Nashville and environs are home to hundreds of these. On any given Sunday, a significant percentage of the local population is in attendance at one of these houses of worship. That is, except yesterday. Yesterday, tens of thousands of Christians stayed home rather than joining together in worship. Why? For many of them, they simply could not go. Their streets were iced in, or their normal transportation was not working. Others did not want to take the risk. Older people, people with small children, people who have medical conditions--these folks wisely avoided dangerous situations. But there was another reason that Christians did not worship together. Their churches were closed.
If you looked on many of the church websites on Saturday night or Sunday morning, you saw that there were many notices of cancellation. Specific services, Christian education, church events, and entire Sunday schedules were set aside. Most of these churches did not say why they had taken this action, simply that it had been done. Perhaps a site would say “dangerous driving conditions.” One huge church did have a note from the pastor, explaining that he did not feel comfortable asking thousands of people to get on the road when the police had advised against it.
Our congregation cancelled its “annual meeting” because we knew that it was unreasonable to expect that we would get a required quorum of members. We did not, however, cancel either worship service.
In our tradition, we practically never cancel Sunday morning worship. It would take a cataclysmic event to cause us to cancel, and I frankly can’t come up with an example of what that might be. For instance, our house is in a small valley. There is no way to get from my house to anywhere without going up a fairly steep hill. I was concerned that my car might now make it. When my wife asked what I would do if my car did not make it, I told her that the church isn't that far a bike ride away. I was not kidding.
So, why? Why not cancel church yesterday?
1) The Centrality of Eucharist. In our tradition, celebrating Christ in Word and Sacrament is essential to the way we live our faith. Our individual spiritual lives as well as our life together in community find their center in Sunday morning Eucharist. Is our salvation dependent upon our worship? Of course not. But we believe we should at least have the opportunity to gather each and every week. This is part of what it means to be liturgical, that we engage in an ongoing pattern of work and worship.
2) This Mission of the Church. Our mission is to share the Word of the Lord with those who do not know him. One way we do that is to offer the Public a place where they can unfailingly hear the Gospel at a set time and place each week. We actually had multiple visitors at both of our services on Sunday.
3) Treating Adults like Adults. We are not the kind of church that commands its members. If someone does not feel that they can come to church, that is their choice. I have no interest in forcing anyone to come to church, especially those who would be in danger by so doing. At the same time, other adults may make the reasonable decision to get on the road and drive to the place of worship.
4) Tradition. By tradition, Anglican’s don’t cancel worship. We don’t use fake flowers in the sanctuary, we use real wine with communion, we don’t cancel worship. That is how we roll.
I have no problem with other people living according to their traditions. I wrote this because I thought it might be helpful to explain ours. As for yesterday, our population was definitley affected by the snow. We had a bit better than a third of our regular attendance. But I will say this: the Lord was worshiped, his Gospel was proclaimed, and his people celebrated Communion together. I’m glad I went.
If you are reading this as a note on facebook, may I recommend you visit www.ThomasMcKenzie.com for the full service version?