Monday, September 1, 2014

The First Week of September is the Loneliest Time in Church

So I haven't gotten tired of waving at people yet.  This past week as folks have returned from various points there has been a rush of friendly greetings from cars and sidewalks.  In the coffee shop I run in to neighbors and congregants.  The whole neighborhood converges at the school pick up line.  I am a small church pastor.  I am not famous.  Yet most of the people I know and who know me live in a very small geographic space.  Life is noisy and  even joyous right now, like a middle-aged version of college move-in day.  We are back from our epic seasonal adventures.  We are out and about.

I am returning from what may have been the best summer of my life.  I will do my best to write about parts of it when I can.  Now, though, the kids are in school. My wife and I are at work.  I have been sending emails, going to meetings, preaching and picking on Sundays and making phone calls so much that my voice is rough and my fingers hurt.  We are building (or re-building) the community we depend on to keep us grounded in a sometimes impersonal world.  However, the sanctuary is still silent.  It is still clean.  It is static and waiting for the party to begin.  When I get off the sidewalk and walk into the office I share with our Church Administrator, Felicia and our new Ministerial Intern, Shane. I am suddenly alone.

Such is the way with church this time of year.  We are busy, but not for what is "right now".  Instead we are preparing for "not yet".  It is my least favorite part of the church cycle.  Every year I wonder if this will be the one when no one bothers to show up the Sunday after Labor Day. 

Yes, we have summer services.  Yes, the leadership and the staff are prepared and ready.  At the very least that great and vibrant core group will be around.  Still, I have at various times in my life thrown parties where no one ever arrives.  Also, there was that one year some eight ago when it took many members the vast bulk of September to remember that there was a church and they should be in it.  In the silence I wonder.  I wonder if people will remember to bring their kids back on September 7 when Sunday School begins.  Will the Middle School Youth Groupers gather at 9am on the 14th right before our Ingathering and water service?  I sure hope so.  I would miss them if they don't.
My prayers these days are for all those people who staff our small and mid-sized congregations.  It is a little surreal running about from task to task in the quiet of an empty church.  We really do know that eventually the folk will return.  It is just strange, that's all.  And it isn't anything we want to get used to....

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