Every Sunday for the rest of your life? That makes you unavailable to do as you please. Illustration: Natalia Bayduzha
Great weekend coming up. What are you doing?
Counting daffodils so the rest of the country can feel really bad that they’ve still got winter! How about you?
I’ll be digging in the garden. Speaking of which, Grant the Greenhouse Man will be with us in the next hour to talk about getting your garden ready for spring. Have a great weekend, everyone. The news is next.
The CBC morning show is underway. Our genial hosts manage to sound like ordinary people chatting away. If the weather is good, they’ll encourage listeners to get out and enjoy it. And if the weather is bad, they’ll comment on what a great weekend it will be to read a book or go to a movie.
Funny how going to church is never part of the conversation. Imagine if the on-air conversation went like this:
What a great weekend coming up! What are you doing?
I’m going to church on Sunday morning.
Dead silence. Followed (no doubt) by an off-air reprimand from the producer.
No, going to church on Sunday is not one of the options recommended by the CBC. Why not?
For several decades now, people of faith have been increasingly aware that church-going is not as popular as it once was. In fact, church-going is no longer a social norm.
“Twenty years ago, everyone on our block went to church,” a parishioner from Newfoundland once told me. “Now we are the only ones who go.” It’s not unusual to find church-going kids who are the only ones in their class who go to church, or professionals who don’t know anyone at work who attends any church.
It’s not that church is a bad thing in the eyes of society. A connection with a church is a sign of real commitment to the community, like having a membership in the art gallery. And it’s socially acceptable to belong to a church if you go on special occasions, such as Christmas. But to be available every Sunday for the rest of your life? That would make you unavailable for impromptu visits from friends, dropping by on the one day of the week people are free to do as they please. That makes church socially unacceptable.
Does our requirement of Sunday church attendance threaten to cut people off from their friends? Deeply committed church people take Sunday attendance for granted. But what about interested adults who still can’t imagine tying up every Sunday for the rest of their lives? How do we encourage them on the path of faith? Is tying up every Sunday essential to walking in The Way?
Put another way: how could we encourage a different response to the CBC radio host’s question, “What are you doing this weekend?” Ω
Canon Harold Munn is rector of The Church of St. John the Divine in Victoria, B.C.