Written by BILL RYAN Sentinel Religion Editor
Friday, 31 January 2014 10:42
While the job of a pastor ultimately focuses on saving the souls of their congregation, sometimes they also try to assure their flock's safety while on Earth.
|The snowfall this month as seen here at Calgary Lutheran Church in Northwood, has forced churches to decide if they should cancel Sunday worship services. (Photo: Enoch Wu/Sentinel-Tribune)
Sunday services are an important part of many people's faith lives and it is difficult to miss if they feel they can safely make it to the church.
Already this winter, many Sunday church services have been canceled due to the inclement weather. At the services which were held, most, if not all, saw fewer followers in the pews. Most of the faithful wisely chose to stay home.
Much like how worship styles vary from church to church, so does their approach to holding services in bad weather. The only consistent theme is that services are called off if there is a Level 3 weather emergency declared. Some churches also automatically cancel at Level 2.
Beyond that, most of the pastors we spoke to in a random sampling try to hold services no matter the snow or cold.
"We do not formally cancel worship, firstly because worship is the most important thing we do," said Pastor Susan Kronbach, who serves both Church of the Good Shepherd United Methodist in North Baltimore, along with Bairdstown United Methodist. "Anyone who gathers can worship."
She also tells people she expects them "to be careful and responsible and make their own decision if they can get there safely."
It seems to be consistent across the Methodist denomination, as most of the pastors were dedicated to holding services.
Pastor Jeff Ridenour, who serves both Bradner United Methodist and Trinity United Methodist in Bloomdale, noted an old church pioneer saying which claims, "The weather is so bad today, the only things out are crows and Methodist preachers."
His churches are ones that automatically cancel at Level 2 or 3, so people don't have to call, be called, or look for their church in a television scroll listing.
"They have never closed that church due to weather. They may have years ago, but it was so long ago, nobody can remember," said Pastor Bob May of Stony Ridge United Methodist.
"I've never canceled the service. This is my sixth year and we have never canceled. However last Sunday, there was no service held.
A few members had gathered and there was Sunday School, however May said the organist did not make it and with only a few more people on hand at worship time, so they chose not to hold the service, though officially it was not canceled.
"The other thing was that it was starting to snow even heavier then," May added.
Many of the pastors noted their location and the expected drive for those attending weighs into the decision.
Some pastors have their parsonage close to the church, so they can easily get there.
Harold Driver of the Bowling Green Church of Christ fits that mold.
"I live next door to the church so I can usually make it," Driver joked. "Our primary thing is we are open every Sunday morning unless it's a Level 3."
On Sunday he said they only had 11 people so he preached a different sermon than the one originally planned.
"I had a shorter sermon so people could get home," Driver said, noting the men of the church also decided at that time to cancel the evening service.
He also noted they are quicker to cancel the Wednesday night service.
"If it gets bad we tell them not to come," Driver said.
Brent Pomeroy pastor of First Christian Church in Bowling Green says, "We try not to cancel unless we have to."
He explained the decision is a joint one including he and the chair of the board.
Though he says some have wondered why, "So far we have not had to cancel. We just keep on trucking here. We try to keep the doors open for the faithful who come."
All of the pastors noted lower attendance during those bad Sundays, with most estimating roughly 50 percent of the people staying home.
"The weather has certainly affected our attendance," Pomeroy said. "Sometimes older members are not as adventurous in venturing out into the elements.
Ridenour feels that is a wise choice for some of the older members. "When it's this cold, they either need to call someone for a ride or stay home. We don't need broken hips or broken legs."
Kronbach said both of her churches are blessed to have people in the congregation who are able to plow out the parking lot, shovel the walks and get those types of issues handled.
Members should verify how their church handles things in advance.
At least some of those who attend this weekend's services are likely to be praying for a break in the weather.
Last Updated on Friday, 31 January 2014 10:45