Sunday, January 09, 2011


I’ve been hiding out for most of the day—doing simple things—listening to the radio, a bit of laundry, a bit of cleaning, reading, having lunch, calling my sister and planning what it is that I will say if anybody asks me why I wasn’t at church.
Maybe I’ll say, “Well, we’ve been awfully busy, you know.” And then again, maybe I won’t say that. When I start saying that, I’ll remember that we haven’t had any company since last Wednesday night when I hosted the after-Christmas party for the Hope Foundation staff. I’ll remember that I was home all day Friday and much of Saturday. So I don’t think I’ll mention being busy, just in case anybody asks what I was doing.
Maybe I’ll blame it on the weather. That will be an easy sell, given the road reports coupled with the fact that Lawrence and David spent so much of the weekend relocating snow amid the wintry blast that obliterated their footprints before the shovels could be stowed in the garage. But then, how will I explain the fact that I waved a cheerful good-bye to Lawrence as he left for work on this same miserable morning? Perhaps the weather ought not to be mentioned. Some other explanation will have to be made.
Maybe I could imply that I was ill—believable with so many people coughing—albeit a blatant lie. After all, I am a Canadian, and I read recently that many Canadians report going to church more often than they actually go. But then, I didn’t count myself among that exaggerating crowd. “I don’t have to lie about it,” I declared sanctimoniously. Perhaps I won’t lie.
The truth—when you get right down to it—is that—despite the drifted roads and icy corners--we had fully intended to go to church today. We were up in plenty of time. We were more or less ready. And then, to our surprise, we had a change of plan. We decided to stay home. We skipped church today because we could. To be more clear, we could skip without causing a panic. David had made no commitments. I had made no commitments. Although somebody might have missed me, and wondered where I was, nobody was counting on me to unlock a door, or play the music, or sing a solo, or hold up a part in the choir. And this was unusual, because, in general, unless I have given notice of an impending absence, I do have a job that people are expecting me to do. And so I thought that—just this once—I could skip church without giving notice to anybody—just skip church and stay home on a whim without a pang of conscience. Obviously, I was wrong about the pang of conscience.
Church, it seems, is different things to different people. To some it is a place to go on Christmas Eve, a nostalgic experience to sample once in a while. To others, church is a place for weddings, funerals and baptisms. For some it’s a place to express a deep faith, for others a place to meet people. For me, church is a community—Sunday mornings and other times as well.
There’s a benefit to being part of a community. We all need communities—places to make a contribution, places where we are valued. Communities give something to us, and the more we give, the more we are missed. There’s a downside to communities also. We have to get up on snowy mornings and show up to do whatever it is that we promised to do. And there’s that paradoxical relationship we have with those communities to which we are most firmly connected. Sigh as we might about the energy they take from us, we miss ourselves in their midst when they meet without us.
And now that I’ve said all this, it is time to admit that I really don’t know what I’ll say if anybody mentions that they did not see me in church today. But—even though the sense of freedom to stay at home has proven to be decidedly delicious--I just might be a little perturbed if nobody notices.

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