Reflections on Faith & Life for the Years of Winter…
Today is the 5th Sunday of the month. Interesting things happen on 5th Sundays. Special things.
At St. Mark’s on the Bypass, our Sunday School for kids is held during worship, which is an abomination, since teachers, like the children, never get to worship. Except on the 5th Sunday.
On 5th Sundays, teachers and students alike abandon their electronic flannel boards and seek sanctuary. Since they are there anyway, we press children into worship leadership, the way the shipping industry in the late 1800s pressed sailors onto ships.
In other places it was called “shanghaiing.” Men, sometimes boys as young as ten, were kidnapped, threatened, tricked, beaten, drugged and dragged on board sailing ships and kept there for voyages that sometimes lasted for years [hard to escape a ship on the sea] to increase the profits of rich ship owners, who didn’t care how their ship captains got their crews as long as their goods got delivered. It wasn’t until 1948 that the US passed a law against it.
So it is at St. Mark’s on the Bypass, except we shanghai children up into the chancel and make them read scripture and lead litanies and do other similarly onerous duties--like ringing bells to get folks to stop shaking hands and saying “Hot enuf for ya?” when they are supposed to be passing the peace of Christ. We have kids, some as young as 2nd grade, who do an amazing job at this stuff. Makes us wonder why we pay preachers when it’s so easy to shanghai folks into doing this stuff.
When I was an IU student and preaching at Solsberry, Koleen, and Mineral, we had a different approach to 5th Sundays. We had no worship at all. I’m sure people needed it then as much as any other Sunday, but it was just too complicated to figure out.
Solsberry was 15 miles from my dorm. Mineral was 35. Koleen was 40. Koleen and Mineral were only 5 miles apart. I could get to both of them on a Sunday morning, but not one of them and Solsberry, too. We always had an evening service in one of the churches, but Solsberry didn’t want to have the evening service all the time, so… we ended up with schedules like Koleen and Mineral in the morning on the first Sunday of the month, with Sosberry in the evening, and Mineral and Solsberry in the morning on the second Sunday and Koleen in the evening, and… well, you get the idea. Twice in those three years I went to the wrong church. Putting a 5th Sunday into a schedule like that was just too much, so I got 5th Sundays off.
It is only partially true that I proposed to Helen by saying, “A fifth Sunday is coming up, so let’s get married.” But it was on a fifth Sunday. At St Mark’s on the Bypass. Where today we shall hear the old, old story, told by new, new voices. Something special.