It’s Sunday morning and I am home and we’re not going to church today. We are on vacation, enjoying one of our six Sundays a year not in church, but I’m feeling a little naughty and a little guilty about the whole thing. The truth is, we could go to church – if not the church we serve, then another church. A church of another denomination, in our neighborhood, whose pastor we admire. A church served by one of our Presbyterian colleagues whom we never get to hear preach. The hipster church down the road which brings in millenials in droves, for reasons we simply cannot fathom.
But no, we’re staying home this morning. We might go to brunch – isn’t that what people who don’t go to church do on Sunday mornings? We could drink coffee and read the Sunday paper, but I’m the only one who drinks coffee and we cancelled the paper until tomorrow, thinking our vacation would last one more day than it actually did. Instead, I was up at six (why?????) and the others are sleeping in.
Here’s the thing: pastors (and other church professionals) need a break from church and from Sunday morning worship. If I were to go to my own congregation this morning, and sit somewhere in the sanctuary, it would be hard for me to let go and just worship. If there were a mistake in the bulletin, I would see it. If the sound system was wonky, I would notice it. I would have to work hard to worship and not to critique, and that’s not fair to those who are leading worship today, or to myself.
And for me, it is hard to do a one-off at another congregation. It’s hard to go to a brand new church whose traditions are not your own. Did I sit in “someone’s” pew? Do we kneel, come forward, stand up, sit down, fight fight fight? If I sing the alto line to the hymn, will I get funny looks? Will my child be bored to tears, or invited to leave to go God knows where for a Bible lesson, juice, and animal crackers? Will the sermon move me or annoy me, or worse, bore me? Will I be welcomed or ignored?
In the twenty-two years since I’ve been ordained, the most I have not gone to church is three weeks in a row, and that was when my daughter was first born. Did I miss it? I was so overwhelmed by my newborn, and breast feeding, and exhaustion, and healing from a C-section, that worship was the last thing on my mind. But that fourth week, I couldn’t wait to take our daughter to church for the first time. She was cooed over and held and I was loved and cared for. We were home.
This morning we are home at our home. The spouse and the kid are still asleep, and the dog just woke up and is sitting on my lap. The morning coffee has been consumed. I might make scones. I might read. I might do laundry. I won’t go outside, because the smoke from the fires east of us is looming over all the city and it’s nothing short of gross outside.
I won’t go to church today; I’ll take the rare sabbath a pastor gets. I’ll remember that I am not in charge of worship, nor solely responsible for it, nor the only one who does it right. I will say a prayer – for my colleague who is on her own this morning; for the firefighters who are so brave and tireless; for those whose health and homes are affected by this fire. I’ll say a prayer of thanks for this morning off, for vacation, for my family and my dog.