I used to be like Pastor Brown. At his blog, he said,
Well, use your sanctified common sense. If you are frail and will fall – stay at home. If you must drive great distances, perhaps you should remain at home (that’s why our organist, who lives 45 miles away, isn’t going to make it). But if you can – I will be here.
Why would we ever think about “canceling” Church? If the building burns down (Lord forbid) on a Saturday night, I will be preaching in the parking lot on Sunday, even if it is winter. The Word of God is to be proclaimed, come sleet or snow, come hail or thunder, come mono or plague — as long as I can haul my carcass over there, there will be service. (full post here)
As I wrote in a comment there, I used to feel the same way. The Divine Service can be stopped by nothing in this world. I still don’t let my health stop me, never have, never will, God willing. But I’ve changed my mind about bad weather.
On Sunday morning I drove into church early, and slipped and slid all the way. The parking lot was a solid sheet of ice. I walked around the church and back to the office, to check the weather on the internet. There were more bands of heavy sleet and rain about to hit. I called the head elder, who admitted the smart thing to do would be to cancel. We made the decision.
About five minutes later, an elderly member called the church and asked if we were canceling or not, and that is when it hit me. This person has no business walking or driving in hazardous conditions, but the couple would have come if there was church. I told Marjorie that even if I canceled just for them, it was probably worth it.
Pr. Brown advises, “Use your sanctified common sense….” Indeed. But I am discovering that this is lacking for some. And like every father, I had to make a decision for the children of God because they may not make good ones by themselves. That sounds patronizing, and it is. Despite that we don’t call our pastors “Father” it does not change the fact of the relationship. It is a paternal relationship, so patronizing I will be (pater…patronus…patron, patronize –that’s the derivation).
The decision to cancel church is in some respects an instance of the balancing act that pastors must exercise all the time: balancing the spiritual needs and life of the congregation against the ideal, the fullness, so to speak. The Orthodox call this oeconomia, an act of economy, of management, of applying pastoral care to individuals in diverse circumstances. I suppose we call it “pastoral care.” But by the principle of oeconomia, one cannot judge the actions of another (nor should we under any circumstance). How I applied care to this congregation is to be judged on its own basis, not in comparison to others.
So, Pastor Brown, I thank God for your dedication and decision to carry through with the Divine Service. I wish I could have here, but I feel I made the best decision for my flock.