Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Snow and worship

Why is it that I, like Dr Young before me, will rarely cancel Sunday morning church services because of snow? So far, in the 18 months that I have been here, we have had two Sundays in which we were one of the only churches in Lancaster County not to close due to snow. The first Sunday was back in January of 2005 and we still had over 500 people in attendance. Just two Sundays ago was the second time and this time there was quite a bit more snow than the Sunday storm spoken about previously. Even though at the start of the first service we literally had more people on the stage that we did in the congregation, we still ended the morning with well over 400 people who still came out to worship. That’s certainly enough people to justify Sunday morning worship! Back in December of 2005, our Business Manager, Andrew Norton, wrote in his blog about our philosophy regarding keeping the doors open on Snow Sundays.

Here is what he said:
One of Grace Church's reputations is that we rarely cancel Sunday Services for snow storms. I think we have an interesting approach to snowstorms, though it's often misunderstood. First and foremost, based on past attendance, there is a segment of our congregation that want to worship on Sunday morning and that shows up in spite of the weather. If there's a group that wants to worship, we want to give them that opportunity. From our experience, other churches have similar groups. When their church cancels and we still meet, some of them worship with us that Sunday simply because we are open. We have no intention of "stealing" attenders from other churches, but we think a snowy Sunday presents some unique ministry opportunities for us to serve the church universal. I can't stress enough that we trust and we need every attender to use common judgment on whether it is safe for them to be traveling. Our congregation is spread widely enough that we can't determine the safety conditions for each attender. Just because we don't cancel services, doesn't mean we expect everyone to be at church. Our expectation is actually to the contrary...We expect a smaller crowd on a snowy Sunday. With that comes a unique worship atmosphere unlike our regular services. We recognize that Sunday School teachers, childcare workers and all of the others that support a regular service may be unable to get to the church, so we take a casual approach. We throw the normal plans out the window and work with what we have. Children can worship in the Auditorium with their families and we can sing without instruments or song words, each of us in our flannel shirts and snow boots. The volunteers who support Sunday morning services should not feel pressured to get to the church if we don't cancel. We'll flex with what we have/who shows-up and have fun in the process. So the next time you wake up on a Sunday morning and Grace Church is still meeting for worship and you deem it safe to go out, pull on your snow gear and worship with a few of the frozen chosen at Grace!

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