Monday, December 10, 2007

Why Was Church Canceled?

I used to be like Pastor Brown. At his blog, he said,

Well, use your sanctified common sense. If you are frail and will fall - stay at home. If you must drive great distances, perhaps you should remain at home (that's why our organist, who lives 45 miles away, isn't going to make it). But if you can - I will be here.

Why would we ever think about "canceling" Church? If the building burns down (Lord forbid) on a Saturday night, I will be preaching in the parking lot on Sunday, even if it is winter. The Word of God is to be proclaimed, come sleet or snow, come hail or thunder, come mono or plague -- as long as I can haul my carcass over there, there will be service. (full post here)
As I wrote in a comment there, I used to feel the same way. The Divine Service can be stopped by nothing in this world. I still don't let my health stop me, never have, never will, God willing. But I've changed my mind about bad weather.

On Sunday morning I drove into church early, and slipped and slid all the way. The parking lot was a solid sheet of ice. I walked around the church and back to the office, to check the weather on the internet. There were more bands of heavy sleet and rain about to hit. I called the head elder, who admitted the smart thing to do would be to cancel. We made the decision.

About five minutes later, an elderly member called the church and asked if we were canceling or not, and that is when it hit me. This person has no business walking or driving in hazardous conditions, but the couple would have come if there was church. I told Marjorie that even if I canceled just for them, it was probably worth it.

Pr. Brown advises, "Use your sanctified common sense...." Indeed. But I am discovering that this is lacking for some. And like every father, I had to make a decision for the children of God because they may not make good ones by themselves. That sounds patronizing, and it is. Despite that we don't call our pastors "Father" it does not change the fact of the relationship. It is a paternal relationship, so patronizing I will be (pater...patronus...patron, patronize --that's the derivation).

The decision to cancel church is in some respects an instance of the balancing act that pastors must exercise all the time: balancing the spiritual needs and life of the congregation against the ideal, the fullness, so to speak. The Orthodox call this oeconomia, an act of economy, of management, of applying pastoral care to individuals in diverse circumstances. I suppose we call it "pastoral care." But by the principle of oeconomia, one cannot judge the actions of another (nor should we under any circumstance). How I applied care to this congregation is to be judged on its own basis, not in comparison to others.

So, Pastor Brown, I thank God for your dedication and decision to carry through with the Divine Service. I wish I could have here, but I feel I made the best decision for my flock.


  1. Rev. Eric J Brown said...

    I hadn't even noticed that you had cancelled before I posted mine.

    And this could simply be a difference in our parenting styles. Plug covers? No, stick a fork in there once and by golly you'll learn not to do it again!

    On a serious note - it could also depend on what your congregation needs to know. IF they are frail but understand the importance of worship - canceling may be quite good. If they are able but make excuses - maybe you should have it to demonstrate its importance. It is a complete and total balancing act.

  2. Doorman-Priest said...

    "Sanctified common sense". I love it. Missing from so many Christians over so many issues.

  3. Mike Baker said...

    Pastor Hall,

    I think that what you are doing is fine pastoral care.

    The Divine Service is a timeless gift from God that nourishes, gives life, and forgiveness. It should not be stopped for worldly things; fear of persecution for example. It should not be stopped because of inconvenience; the loss of the church building or air conditioning for example.

    ...but the specific schedule of the Divine Service is not a matter of God's law. The times and dates are not ordinances that must be observed at all times regardless of the consequences. Sunday service is a fine and salutary church tradition, but we should not hold to it to the point that it appears as though it was mandated by Scripture.

    At those times when a call to worship would result in putting the flock at undue risk of physical harm from weather conditions, a pastor should be able to cancel or reschedule services in the interest of protecting his flock.

    Rev Brown's point should be accepted also. We should exhort the people to attend all services and obediently conform to the church as a whole. Obvious laziness, excuses, and apathy are to be reproved.

    God bless you both for your dedication to Christ and His church.