On Not Going to Church, part 2: Who goes to Church vs. Who Can’t?

So last week I posted a blog entry on my angst of having to work every Sunday and being unable to attend my church. This coming Sunday I am working again and won’t be able to  attend a service anywhere in my community. This happens to lots of people, I know, but I have started to think about who.

I have friends who are medical professionals, nurses and doctors, who sometimes have to miss church to work a shift at the hospital. Police officers face a similar problem. There are also small business owners who cannot break away for a Sunday morning service. Certainly there are others who are regularly excluded from worship but I wonder if the people most unable to attend a Sunday service on a regular basis are the working poor.

I say because for the moment that’s me. I have a slightly better than minimum wage job. It is shift work at my local hardware store and I take what work I can get. And so I miss church because I have to work, and for the moment that is each and every Sunday.

This is a reality for a lot of people. Think of the crowd that shuffles off  after church to Sunday brunch and enjoy a time of fellowship. But someone has to

Guys in fancy hats working on Sunday so you don’t have to.

take their order, clear the table and cook their food. Church people couldn’t go out to eat on Sunday, if other people couldn’t go to church on Sunday. Or who doesn’t like the convenience of grocery (or shoe) shopping on a Sunday morning? We all like to shop, eat out with friends, and get done all the errands that we couldn’t get done during our work week, don’t we?  Or maybe our ‘Sabbath’ practice is to enjoy a tall extra hot non-fat latte at our local coffee shop, sit in an over-sized chair and surf the net on the free wifi. I am pretty sure that is what Jesus would do.  I know the baristas are pleased that you have brought the kingdom of God to their comfy cafe.

This is the culture we live in, and I won’t pretend there are easy answers. Once upon a time, communities shutdown on Sundays so that everyone could attend worship services. Now there is no sacred time when buying and selling cease and some people with low paying who are making your life convenient, will not be able to go to your church and worship with you. As one of their number, you are welcome.

So here is a little exercise, when you sit in your theater style chairs on Sunday morning, and you watch the white screen come down from the ceiling so that God can speak through the PowerPoint, ask yourself these questions: By doing church this way, who are we excluding? Who can’t make it and what are we doing as a church to reach out to them? How can we reach out and be the church for those who can’t be at church?

Often mega churches do a good job of including people because of the number of services they offer. Anglo-Catholic and Roman Catholic Parishes sometimes offer daily mass which allows those who cannot stand with the congregation on Sundays, kneel with them on Thursdays.  But maybe your church is small and doesn’t have the resources to offer multiple services. What can you do to be more hospitable to would-be-worshippers?  How should we change to include those we are excluding?

Now this is more than angst about ME not going to church. My inability to attend at the moment has forced me consider those who never could. May we find ways to bring God’s presence to those who cannot come into God’s house.

2 thoughts on “On Not Going to Church, part 2: Who goes to Church vs. Who Can’t?

  1. James, I often think about and pray for those with physical handicaps and limitations that keep them from coming to church. I can’t tell you how many of my chronically ill patients aren’t able to attend regularly and the church does a poor job at coming to them at home, group homes and other facilities. This makes many of them subject to dubious tv broadcasting of “church.” Is there another way? That’s what and who I am thinking of these day. But I hear you about the working poor! Who else is out there?

    • Corrie, Thanks for this. This is another huge demographic and I didn’t mean slight them. I remember when I was working with senior citizens in Atlanta, I knew many elderly women who’s spiritual life was entirely fed by TV preachers which was often a cause of consternation for me when they beat themselves up for not having enough faith (to not be so physically run down and poor). I also was friends with one woman who was a Jehovah’s Witness. When I asked her how she became a Jehovah’s Witness (because I ask questions like that) she told a story about getting too sick to go to her Baptist church and the only people who consistently visited her were the Jehovah’s Witnesses. It was pretty humbling.

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