Bill Rice, one of my mentors in ministry, said, “Never cancel worship.” During his 25-year ministry in Wellesley Hills he said he cancelled only once, and someone showed up and demanded to know why he wasn’t there, since he lived in a parsonage just across the street.
So far — thirty-six years — I’ve never cancelled a Sunday service, nor failed to show up. (Knock on wood.)
Yesterday, during the blizzard of ’06 I arrived at church by 8:30 with plan B in hand. It looked beautiful from the inside looking out – the wind was howling, snow swirling, and I was able to ‘watch the woods fill up with snow,” as Robert Frost encouraged us to do.
At a minute before nine I thought I’d be watching the snow alone, and even considered going into the sanctuary, turning on the tape recorder, and doing a service to empty chairs. Then Jamie and her husband Glenn showed up and I knew we’d have a peopled service. Bart Stuck came to usher–he knew it wouldn’t be a regular Sunday. Jim Cooper came, and we arranged several chairs in a circle at the front of the sanctuary. I played a song from Andy Gundell’s ‘collection’ album to open the service, then recited Frost’s Stopping By Woods poem.
Bob and Candace Perry trudged in, shook off the snow and joined us. I asked someone to choose a reading from the hymnal–Jamie picked #435, written by Kathleen McTigue, Unitarian minister in New Haven: “We come together this morning to remind one another to rest for a moment on the forming edge of our lives, to resist the headlong tumble into the next moment, until we claim for ourselves awareness and gratitude…this house of laughter and silence, memory and hope, is hallowed by our presence together.”
Just right! The words ‘awareness and gratitude’ stood out for me, and I asked others what had meaning for them, and we shared thoughts in a way not possible when there are 200 people in worship. Bart chose hymn #159, the Finlandia song about loving one’s own country and at the same time realizing that people in other lands feel the same about their country, their land.
We did our Affirmation and candle lighting, had some quiet time together; then we had some good discussion during what otherwise would have been sermon time. I suggested a few topics that I’ve been mulling over for a future sermon—about happiness and truth. We shared the sermonizing; I closed with a reading of Frost’s Birches, then played John Lennon’s Imagine. We had a nice service. Doug Jones showed up in time to usher for the eleven o’clock service, we just chatted in the foyer, deciding one service was enough during a blizzard!
The service originally planned with David and me was postponed to February 26.
Our big snowstorm of the year is over—maybe it will be the only one. We’re looking forward to the Clarence Darrow presentations on March 17 and 19; I want to encourage you to put at least one of those dates on your calendar—it’s a good opportunity to introduce a friend to the church as well as a chance for a family event. Gary Anderson does the one-man show on the controversial Darrow who has been called, ‘the most hated and celebrated lawyer in American history.’ It’s amazing how contemporary Darrow is today, with concerns about Creationism, Racism, the Death Penalty, Conspiracy laws and civil liberties. I hope you’ll plan to attend.