Canceling Church

trees in snow landscapeI did something yesterday that I would have scoffed at half a decade ago.  I cancelled church.  I sent out the email….

canstockphoto22576949No Worship Gathering Tomorrow

Tomorrow, Sunday, March 1, we will not gather for worship.  Even though I hate the idea of canceling our time together, a drive out to the church building convinced me it is the best decision.  While the main roads are sanded, the side roads, including 60th Ave. NW,  are still slick in most spots.  That combined with predictions of coming sleet confirm that the best place for all of us to be tomorrow morning is at home. Let’s all take a moment of personal worship, 10:30am tomorrow at home, and we will still be having corporate worship, only without the amazing coffee (no comments are welcome regarding my coffee)!   If you know of someone who does not regularly look at their email, give them a call and let them know to not drive out to the church tomorrow….however, do tell them to drive out next Sunday, March 8.

Be Safe,  Rick

In addition to the email, I sent out a text, posted it on the ‘closings’ feed on each local television stations, changed the outgoing phone message and finally put a sign on the church building door.  A great thing about having a small church is that it is easy to feel confident that you have contacted everyone.

For the remainder of my Saturday I lost at high stakes games of Monopoly and Risk with my kids, and called/lectured my kids that are away at college about the value of being safe when considering driving on the icy roads.

The entire day I comfortably rested in my decision to cancel church.

Four years ago I cancelled a Sunday gathering for the first time and it was anguishing.  I refused to make a call on Saturday, even though the weather made it obvious.  On Sunday morning I drove out to the church building at the edge of town to convince myself that canceling was the right decision, and then I paced the floors.  Our music team even showed up at the building before I finally decided, after hearing their harrowing driving experiences, I knew that I had to cancel our worship gathering.   Still, I worried, I worried what our church people would think, if the community would criticize, I worried that other pastors would judge, I worried it would make me look like a wimp.  Finally, my wife pointed out that the people that would still get in their cars and drive on the dangerous roads to the church building were our older folks who did not need to be on the road or sidewalks.

Still, in the years since, I have been hesitant to cancel church.  I watch the news feed to see if other churches are canceling in an attempt to justify my decision.  Still, I pace the floors and anguished over the decision.

This year was different, this year I made a quick decision, largely thanks to Ms. Barbara.

Ms. Barbara is a perfectly behaved senior adult in our church.  She endured a liver transplant and is still around over fifteen years beyond the medical community’s predictions of life expectancy.  She has diabetes, and countless other medical conditions and diagnosis.  She is known to my kids as the woman with the exploding toe; I won’t go into details except to say that the toe is not her only casualty to diabetes.  She is also the most polite and respectful person I have ever known.  She is always perfectly behaved and respectful to all.  I have a difficult time checking in on her because she always wants to know about my family when I am attempting to find out about her.  She is just that type of person.

Actually, she is perfectly behaved until she is a bit doped up in the hospital, especially days within a special hospital procedure.  She has had a lot of special procedures over the years I have been her pastor.  I love visiting Ms. Barbara within the pain medicine time period. During pain medicine time she is the person I always wish I could be.  The person that can say anything and get away with it.

On a hospital ststanwyckay years ago I told her that she was truly a ‘tough old broad’ in the example of Barbara Stanwyck.  She laughed.

On her most recent hospital stay I visited her room on Friday.  I got to her room at a moment of true chaos.  The weather was getting bad just as the meteorologists had predicted, and she had just finished her physical therapy following surgery after a very serious fall.  The nurse was on the phone with Ms. Barbara’s daughter attempting to explain the current situation while trying to get an oxygen count.  During all of this, Ms. Barbara noticed that her IV had come out and something was flowing out of her arm.  Everything was loud and busy.  However, not too busy for Ms. Barbara to yell at me as I walked into the door that I should not be out in this weather and that I need to cancel church for the coming Sunday.

“We have too many old people like me and they do not need to be out on the roads,” she yelled.

I stuck around for the chaos and as I left, after the nurse had loaded warm blankets on Ms. Barbara in an attempt to get an oxygen count, I was lectured again. Even as I was walking out the door she was still yelling that I needed to ‘cancel church.’

She was right and, as I drove away, I knew that I had to cancel our gathering on Sunday.  I had to because it was not about me, snow bridgeit was not about what others would think or how they could judge.  It was, and is, about what is best for the church, the people that are the church.  It was best that we all stayed home.

I didn’t need to pace anymore, I just had to keep my focus on what is right.

Stay Safe and Keep Focused, Rick

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