Pastoral Ponderings—Lines for Church? 3 NOV 2020
There has been some concern expressed about people behaving themselves while voting this year, so some community leaders in Akron have been encouraging pastors and social workers to find way to be a calming presence as needed at voting locations. That was pretty easy for me, as our church is a polling place again, as it has been for years.
I wasn’t originally planning to be here with the lines before polling started, but I couldn’t sleep with being concerned about it, so I got here by about 6:15, with polling starting at 6:30. There was already a line by the time I arrived, and by the time the doors opened, the line stretched almost all the way back to the street. I ended up being something of a traffic cop, directing people to park in the grass just like for Flea Market days, because every space in the lot was filled!
I was impressed, though, that everyone was behaving themselves, and as I was wandering along the line, I told some of them that if they don’t like lines, they could come back on Sunday, since we don’t have lines for getting into church! Well, these days that wouldn’t be such a good idea anyway in our COVID environment to have so many in worship at once, but it was quite the preacher’s fantasy, to have the parking lot overflowing and people lined up to the street to come to hear the Good News of Jesus!
When we read in our history books about “The Great Awakening” events in the 1700s and 1800s, we hear of people by the thousands coming to hear many of those preachers, including John Wesley, the accidental father of our forbearers in the Methodist movement (and all without sound equipment!). We only had a couple hundred waiting in line to vote, but it was still an impressive sight. I’ve often wondered why God was moving in such powerful ways back then, but sure seems to be less so now.
This election is the first I’ve seen in a long time with lines like this, too. So what’s the difference? Maybe that word is the key—people are eager to “make a difference”– and with this election it seems that either way you vote, you could be making a real difference. So would that make a difference for us as a church—if we could find a way to let people know that what we do in church can make a real difference too, but for people coming to church, and by helping our church folk make a real difference outside the walls?
Maybe it’s easier as we approach the holidays, when we can remind people that an attitude of gratitude—of “thanks-giving”—makes a big difference in all our interactions. Or with Christmas—as one book I’ve seen put it “It’s not YOUR Birthday!” How much of a difference would it make in our own families, as well as in the community around us, if we were to pivot just a little to ask “What do you want to GIVE for Christmas?” rather than the more common question, “What do you want to GET for Christmas?”
I’m sorry to say I’m not expecting our parking lot to be filled and people lining up to the street when we gather next this Sunday. But maybe if we help people understand that church is all about making a difference, then more people just might find the time to check us out. Make a difference—not just in your own life, but in your neighborhood, and in our community, so people can see the difference God in us can do!