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Hockey Puck Box. Some rights reserved (CC BY-SA 2.0) by June Campbell (campbelj45ca). Sourced from FlickrToday I had an early start. In general, I try to keep my Saturday nights calm as my Sundays are very busy and high-energy. But today – well, hockey happened. As a proud Canadian, and a hockey fan, I was going to do as much as possible to NOT miss out watching the Olympic men’s gold game!

I planned it out, and I’m far enough west that (so long as the game didn’t go into overtime) I could watch the game AND get to church on time. Just barely. (Thereby proving Ron MacLean wrong – we had full pews and I got to watch the game – but yay Ron for thinking of us!!)

So, despite a late night with a pastoral call, I set my alarm for 5 minutes before the puck dropped. Thankful for tech, I had my laptop beside me (NOT normal) and I just rolled over and clicked on the CBC stream. Hockey in bed – bliss. The intermissions were filled with frantic coffee making, showering, sermon printing, etc. I was texting and chatting with city friends in bars (oi, beer at 6am is NOT my thing!) And with the win, I was out the door like a Crosby breakaway.

So here I sit, at the end of the day, exhausted. Sundays take a lot of energy at the best of times, so getting up early and being rushed wasn’t the wisest decision. But was it worth it? Absolutely. All of us who were up early agree: it was definitely worth it.

This comes at a stark contrast to a different conversation I’ve been having today: Church Time. In this wider parish, we have (minimum) 3 Sunday services, and the communities  rotate worship times every 4 months. That change will take place again next Sunday; there’s often one community rejoicing to be coming into the coveted 11.30 time slot, while another almost grieves that it will get the ‘early’ service. (Irony: 9.30 is still considered late for the farmers, but painfully early for a lot of townies. At the same parish.)

It’s at these time changes when I start getting excuses. The “I’d come to church BUT…” lines. Some of my favourites: BUT 7.30pm service is too late; BUT evening service doesn’t fit with my supper plans; BUT I don’t want to get up for 9.30; BUT I’d rather sleep in; BUT it’s the only day I can get my housework done; BUT I’d be too tired to really pray; BUT BUT BUT.

I have to admit, I don’t have much sympathy for the excuses. (Of course, there are always reasons why people can’t make it to church; life happens. Reasons are reasonable, excuses are generally weak.) I once had an excuse-maker get about three words from the end of their sentence when it dawned on them that complaining about time to me wasn’t necessarily going to get the desired effect – I’m worshiping and providing leadership at all the Sunday services, plus traveling over 100km in there too. (Suddenly showing up for one service wasn’t quite as onerous by comparison!)

The base of this, as I see it, is priority. For me, church – the community gathered in worship – is a priority. And I would hope that for the folks coming together as that community that they too would see it as a priority – or at least be honest if it is not.  For someone to say that 9.30 is too early for worship doesn’t work the same day that person has gone to a pub at 5.30 to watch a hockey game. It’s just a hockey game, which we all knew would be repeated several times over the day (Admittedly it was a good game to watch, but still!)

I’d like to imagine a church community where common worship was their priority. Where God outranked sports or sleeping in. I’m not entirely sure what that church would look like; I’m not sure the world has ever experienced a group of people who all had that level of commitment and priority. But I’d still like to imagine it.

How do we build that type of community? How do we encourage and support that focus of priority? 

About Laura Marie Piotrowicz

I’m a high-energy priest, now serving in the Diocese of Niagara, catching glimpses of the kingdom in daily life. I consider church to be a verb, and I’m passionate about prayer, eco-theology, and social justice. I love travel, reading, canoeing, camping, gardening and cooking, playing with my dogs, and drinking good coffee.

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15 Responses to Priorities

  1. Yes, I went to church; only dire emergencies or sickness or work-related keeps me away from church. But our assistant priest did announce the scores at the end of the service.

  2. I think one of the first things we can do is change the language. I completely agree that common worship should be a priority but to use language like “where God outranks sports or sleeping in” makes church folks look defensive and whiny. We identified that the gold medal game yesterday would be important to watch for a number of folks so we broadcast it in the church on our screens. We created a community for that moment that experienced the game together and then moved into worship when the game was over (fortunately, there was no overtime or I don’t know what I would have done when 9:30 arrived!). I wonder if we should reflect on this: if hockey is a priority for people then we need to learn how to bring worship into that. Perhaps our priority of formal worship at a set time and place is the one that’s out of sync for a lot of folks. I’m wrestling with that–especially after hearing Canon Phil Potter from Fresh Expressions UK present at our diocesan conference last weekend.

  3. I went to church on Saturday night. Sunday morning worship DOES NOT WORK FOR ME. (No, I did not watch the hockey live, did watch a recording of it however when I got up). Even when I force myself to go to Sunday morning service, the last thing I feel like doing is worshipping (plus, just try not falling asleep during the sermon when you’re that exhausted). Sunday morning is my one chance in the week to actually get some REM sleep, and if there wasn’t a Saturday night option, then you’d never see me at Church. For people like me, it seems like most churches are stuck in a model from the 1950’s, and are run exclusively by morning people who seem all-too-happy to equate being a morning person with being a moral person.

    Yes, I do understand that a lot of retired people go to bed early and rise early in the morning. I also understand that people with small children are up early in the morning, whether they want to be or not. Those are the people for whom Sunday morning services make sense. If you want the rest of us actively engaged in the church, the church needs to show some flexibility and also have services that work with our busy (and over-scheduled) lives.

    • Sunday mornings don’t work for everyone. I get that. From my perspective, we have services Sunday morning, mid-day, and evening, Monday evening, and alternating Wednesdays mid-day. We based that schedule around a survey asking parishioners (those in the pews and those we haven’t seen in ages and those in care homes) when they wanted to have worship services. Plus there’s 5-6 bible studies every week.
      So with all that is offered in this context, when people still say they can’t make it, it suggests to me that the timing is not the issue.
      Thanks for sharing your context – and it’s limitations. Church is never going to be all things to all people, but we can try to meet needs as they arise, when we all work together at it. And yes – always good to hear the advice of church needing to be more flexible.

  4. I was at the old Colosseum in Montreal once. It was very much like a church. The sweaters of the star hockey players hoisted to the rafters like stained glass. The cheering more vigorous than the Alleluias I hear in church. I have curled. We are all equals in the hack and must try to hit the mark (the broom) though despite our best efforts, our shots curl away, with no amount of human effort enough to control the trajectory.

  5. Our Rector told us we got the gold at the beginning of service, and we sang O CANADA 10:30

  6. We listened to the last bit of the game on radio as we drove to church. But we can’t make it to Sunday worship every week anyway.

  7. Yes I watched AND made it to Church on time!

  8. One of the Rectors is now praying for a hockey game every Sunday morning as attendance went up.

  9. Kyle Norman

    It’s such a major issue, which I think is a very deep problem. (hint hint, I look at in my post this week – just sayin). I made an effort to not make any snarky comments about people’s attendance this sunday – but it was the lowest I have experienced. The problem isn’t hockey, or the cold, or the nice weather, or anything else. The problem is our priorities and what it is that we worship.

    But tackling the issue is something quite complex – which I haven’t quite got my head around. Well done LauraMarie. This is an important, thought-provoking, and insightful post.

    • Cheers. And thanks for the ping back.
      As I mentioned in a comment on your post, I wonder if it’s a thing of expectation versus outcome. Not sure I have the answers either. And certainly not enough coffee in me yet to come up with anything coherent!!

  10. Now I am fortunate , my parish is a 5 minute walk from my home . So yesterday I was up
    to watch the game then off to church as usual . O.K. I was tired , getting up at 0300
    so one can shower and watch the ga,e at 0400 is dragging. Then after church we had the annual vestry meeting, had to force myself to stay awake through that.. Good meeting over all though.

  11. Claro que a missa no Domingo tem prioridade, jogos e outros afazeres podem esperar ou serem cancelados,

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