I was perusing my local paper’s “Church Page” the other day and noticed that many of the churches had many weekly events and activities listed, some more so than others. It seemed to be the “social calendar” of the local churches. That’s all well and good. It is certainly great to see lots of social activity and community building going on within our churches. I am thrilled to be the pastor of a church where people do enjoy spending time with each other apart from our Sunday morning Divine Service and Bible Class.
As I read through the list, however, I kept thinking to myself, “Something is missing.” You could certainly tell that some churches are known for their long lists of weekly events, but in many cases only a small percentage of them had anything to do with preaching and Sacrament. I was surprised to see that even the Roman Catholic churches lacked any listing of hours for private Confession. I also noticed that with the exception of the Catholic Church, not one church offered the Lord’s Supper weekly (even other local LC-MS churches). It struck me that in many ways the Church has become more of a community center than a “house of prayer.”
My wife thought I was being too cynical about it, and she was probably right. So, minus the cynicism, here are a few things I would love to be able to add to our church’s listing of weekly/monthly events:
Immanuel Lutheran Church
Holy Communion celebrated every Sunday and on other Festivals of the Church Year
Weekday Morning and Evening Prayer Offices
Private Confession/Absolution available Saturday afternoons and Sunday mornings before Bible Class or anytime by appointment.
I’m sure I could think of a few more things, but you get the picture (hopefully). It would be great to see our churches, in addition to providing several social events and gatherings every week or month, actually being “busy” with preaching, praying, and receiving God’s gifts in Word and Sacrament. Wouldn’t it be great to see the events-listing for our church and see many opportunities throughout each week for corporate prayer and worship? I think that we pastors need to stop worrying so much about whether or not “mass numbers” will be at an Epiphany Day Communion Service or an Ascension Day service, or a Saints’ Day commemoration, and just start adding such things to the church’s calendar. Isn’t this the kind of activity we pastors oughtto be about anyway?
I can think of three (off the top of my head) fine examples of this kind of “churchly” scheduling. Pastor Shane Cota and Pastor Larry Beane, both classmates of mine at the seminary, are “busy” offering opportunities for hearing the Word and receiving the Sacrament, not only on Sundays, but throughout the week. Pastor Petersen in Fort Wayne, IN does this as well. I know there are many more that could be mentioned, but I can’t think of any right now. One thing you will find if you ever read through Church Orders of the Reformation churches, and those that followed is that there was no lack of corporate prayer and Divine Service throughout the week. In many places, in addition to offering the Lord’s Supper every Lord’s Day and on Festivals, Matins and Vespers were prayed by the priests and students daily.
The point is: the Church’s social life should flow from its sacramental and liturgical life, and back to it. Otherwise, we might as well change the names of our churches from ________ Lutheran Church to _____________ Community Center.
Rev. Paul L. Beisel