Fall is not the best time there is for pastors to be musing about all things church.

Like teachers (and in our tradition, ministers are ordained as “Pastor and Teacher”) fall signals a hectic shift into the increase of faith activities and celebrations. As I write this I recall that back in June I asked myself, “what summer lull?”

Anyway, we are gearing up here.

Part of me is really repulsed by this idea. Why gear up? Why should the church’s life ever experience any wax or wane? We are people of the ‘Incarnation,’ and thus being one would expect this mystical presence of Christ to be active throughout the year. I don’t cease being a Christian while on vacation. I don’t cease being a Christian while away from my normal work, my neighborhood, my ‘setting in life.’ These other things are interwoven with my daily devotions, my attention to the Sabbath, and my interest in growing in my faith. Ok, I admit that the intensity level varies but these elements of faith remain throughout.

If a baby boomer like me, one who was marched off to church EVERY Sunday because that is just what we did, realizes this; what about the rest of you? How did attendance ever become so sporadic?

I was talking with a group of church folks the other day and I mentioned that when we look at worship patterns today we need to have different expectations for what I would categorize at ‘regular’ attendance. As I noted above, it used to be that if you attended worship 99% of the time then that was regular. If you only attended 80%, that was ‘periodic.’ Like it or not, in my own mind I now see folks who attend an average of 50% – 60% of the time as ‘regular’ attendees. Hold on a minute…I am not offering my blessing for shrugging off the seventh commandment. I believe we are all better off (the collective we, as in the church) by keeping our tradition of Sabbath worship as a community. All I am saying is that there are many, many conflicting responsibilities, not the least of which is work.

What I am saying is that worship together is one of the main ways we maintain our community. If this isn’t a priority for us then our interconnectedness is in jeopardy. I may even say that our connectedness to God is in jeopardy.

Just for kicks I searched for folks who have blogged on the subject of Sabbath. I was surprised that many of the ‘hits’ were about Black Sabbath, but that’s another discussion altogether. The ones who were actually talking about the Sabbath either spent time arguing about when the Sabbath actually is (a Jewish vs. Christian issue) or were worried about how to tell their new boss they were Sabbath observant.

I would want to look at this from a different perspective. because I think that the point of Sabbath keeping is to strengthen our relationship with God (as a community) and to strengthen us (as individuals), I think this is an issue of community. How do we keep community with God and one another? We keep a particular day for reasons of memorial and tradition. And the whole once a week business has to do with the idea of a creation cycle, a periodic re-creation if you will.

I don’t know why people beat up on themselves when they have been away. Some of their reticence to return (I think) is because they are afraid of being rejected by the community. That self-criticism is worse, spiritually, then whatever lame reason they had for not being here. The good reasons don’t create embarrassment. I believe everyone benefits when they find their rhythm and keep the Sabbath…oscillating between rest, work, and play, all the while worshiping God. This is best done together. And, that is what we were created to do.

See ya in church.

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