The Rev. Nicholas Beasley
The church’s great ritual rival in this part of the world, this time of year, is college football. I have been so impressed with the ritual repertoire and precision of the British church and state this week and yet expect that many find the rituals of college football in the South even more moving. Sometimes I do too! Sacred meals in parking lots, processions of players, coaches and bands, stirring pregame hype moments with hymns like Sandstorm and Glory to Old Georgia and Tiger Rag. Much of it is invariably reproduced year and year, passed on from generation to generation, forming identity for individuals and families. It is a lot like church. We just need something more like an athletic department budget to make it all happen at St. John’s.
I jest but would say this with some seriousness: This will be our second Sunday of Sunday School and evening youth ministry. We had a nice strong start to both last Sunday, with enough participants to make the chemistry good, with critical mass. Very often, a drop off in attendance follows as September advances, sometimes correlated to the football schedule. I know, from my own frequent experience as a Georgia spouse, that a Saturday spent on football is tiring and absorbing. Sunday may be needed for laundry, preparation for the school and work week, or caregiving.
So my challenge and invitation is this, to make being part of our ministry on Sunday a priority this fall. We are rebuilding our essential programs of formation in the wake of the pandemic, those gatherings that promote Biblical knowledge, prayerful living, and warm community in Christ. We need to be together for the Spirit of God to work among us. The church is fighting an uphill battle to maintain its ministry in traditional forms (and innovate!) in a rapidly changing culture. We might be in the days of decision for church as we have known it. You make the success of the Gospel through the church in this moment more likely by being together on Sundays this fall. That might mean thinking ahead on Thursday to Sunday’s needs. Get the laundry going tonight; get the week’s groceries in on Friday evening, while your spouse cuts the grass; put out your church clothes (casual is fine!) before you leave for the game. Little things like these can help you stay in communion and Christian community on Sundays this fall, even as you enjoy the richness of the whole human experience that God has given to us.