Two days ago was the Feast of the Presentation of Christ in the Temple, also known as the Feast of the Purification, also known as Candlemas. There was also a vicious snow-storm raging all of Monday and by the time my Wife and I had to go out there was already about 12cm of snow down on the ground and the roads weren’t plowed. It was a mess, but we had errands to run and she had to lead the children’s school at Church at the 6pm service, so we braved the snow (we have snow tires).
When we arrived at the church we found that a small choir, the Priest and servers, three children, and six parishioners had been able to make it through the storm and traffic and to the service. The guest preacher was not able to make it that night and so in the words of the Rector–better a bad sermon than no sermon.
He had three brief points to make about the Feast but it was the first one that struck a chord with me. He said that our being there for the service was an act of civil disobedience. The small congregation laughed at the idea, and he continued by saying that through our ignoring weather bulletins, police warnings, and news outlets all beseeching us to stay off the road we were participating in an act of civil disobedience against a society that puts no emphasis on adoration and forgets what we are for.
Efficiency, productivity, comfort, ease, individual interest–these are all some of the greatest demons that the worshiping church wrestles with. His words weren’t a condemnation on those who didn’t show up, but a reminder that what we are for is, solely, the worship and adoration of God. Cancelling services, especially on Feast days but on any day as well, is to submit the Church and our very calling and purpose to the notion that what is more valuable is our comfort, our ease, our own individual interest and even to an extent our safety.
It is to say that the Church and what happens in it is no different than the shoe-store up the street or the coffee-shop around the corner: if things get too bad outside, if the sidewalks aren’t clear enough, if we aren’t getting enough business: we close up; that what the Church offers and what we offer in the church isn’t worth the wet-feet or slipping tires. It’s to say that the Church belongs to the same secular order as shoe, grocery, or convenience stores rather than to see it as something that can lift that order of things up and transform it.
Whatever the weather, our worship should always be understood as a small act of protest against a society which values the individual over the community, the self over other, and comfort over sacrifice. It is through this act of protest that the Church stands apart and as a beacon for those who are becoming disenchanted with individualism and self and seek deeper meaning in true community.