A few weeks ago, we had a great worship service at one of the churches I serve. We were commemorating the founders of the original congregation that produced the two present congregations that I serve. The original building is still standing and we had planned on holding the service in the building until we found out that for safety reasons, the old wood stove and stove pipe had been removed. Since this was October in Nova Scotia, we decided to hold the service in a local community hall.
We had a great service–the attendance was good, the hall was warm, the music was great, the sermon was short and the potluck lunch was great as always. We had time to talk and laugh and share together. There were some visitors and everything worked well. The hall committee refunded our rental fee and offered to work with us if we wanted to hold worship there at other times, which gives us some options during the winter shut down of our regular buildings. The sixteen of us at the worship service went home having experienced a real spiritual lift.
Skip ahead a week. At 10:30, when worship was supposed to start, there were three people and me–but one had to leave because the building was too cold and she is particularly sensitive to cold. As she left, another person came. And just as I was wondering what we would do, a couple of others came, relatively new people. So, the six of us worshipped. As worship with six people goes, it wasn’t bad. Two of the ladies carried us in singing the hymns a capella, there was some good discussion during the sermon with an insightful and important question coming from one of the new people, showing that he understood and liked our somewhat non-traditional format.
But after the high of the week before, it was a bit of a let-down. But for me, it was only a bit of a let-down and only because the week before had set a high standard. Fortunately, I had to foresight to plan for the let down. Well, it is probably more honest and accurate to say that the Spirit was inspiring me to plan for the let down. I went to the second worship expecting less than the week before.
First, I knew that the attendance would be way down. Two regulars would be away, the people from the city were not visiting that weekend, another was away for medical reasons. I knew we would be way down in attendance–when 15 is a high number, it doesn’t take too many to drastically reduce the attendance. In a congregation of 100, having 10 not attend is barely noticeable–but when 15 is a season high, missing 10 is extremely noticeable.
The low attendance, the lack of music to accompany our singing, the cold building–all of this combined to make the second worship much less exciting and sparkling than the one the week before. But the truth is that this second worship is much closer to our norm–and wasn’t even our lowest attendance this year.
Being prepared for the contrast helped me a great deal. I didn’t go home after the worship with the same spiritual high of the week before but I also didn’t go home in a dark down of depression. I went home, had lunch and a short nap and headerd out for worship at the other churches I serve.
I think I am learning something. It isn’t totally clear in my mind yet and I probably have more to learn but I think it involves accepting what is for what it is, not getting upset for what it isn’t. That was easy to do with the first worship service because everything was so great. But it was a bit harder for the second because it was such a contrast to the first one.
But God was present at both services; we opened ourselves in worship at both services and we were aware of the presence of God in our midst. We missed our regulars who weren’t with us at both services and we welcomed our visitors at both services and they seemed to feel at home. While I would have liked a bit more of the numbers and feelings of the earlier service at the second service, both did what they were supposed to do–and what more can we really ask?
May the peace of God be with you.