At 5 and 7, my daughters know that I don’t have a “normal” job. Their mom goes to work in the morning and makes it home before dinner every Monday-Friday. For the most part, when she’s not at work, she really doesn’t have to do anything for work because at 5 p.m. the business ceases doing business. Church work is a whole different thing: Sundays are what they are, but even beyond that, the church is built on committees and teams of people who get together to discuss and run the work of the church. Some people say that the church is the Spirit, and yeah that’s true, but it’s also a bunch of committees! Those committees usually meet when the laity who serve on them are able to meet…outside of the more typical 9-5, Monday-Friday work week. Additionally, as pastors, we are always “on call” because tragedies and mishaps don’t clock out at 5 p.m. either, and when people turn to the church in their time of need, we try our best to be available to respond. My kids also know that summer means lots of trips when dad goes away for a long time.
To be clear, I am not complaining about my job. I love my job. I knew (and Aimee knew) what we were signing up for back when we were in college and I said that I wanted to be a minister when I grew up. I also know that I’m no busier than anyone else – it’s just a different kind of busy. The reason I write all of that is to say this:
When you superimpose all of those planned and unplanned church meetings over the typical family weeknight schedule of homework, dinner, dance/gymnastics, bath time, and bedtime (never in that order), it leaves almost no time to just sit and be with my family, but we do have a sacred, scheduled family meeting that *almost* never gets missed (and when we do miss it, there are only a couple of possible alternatives). It’s Pizza and Movie Night. That time, every Friday night, is sacred for our family. We pick up pizza from Papa Murphy’s, buy their favorite excessively large Hershey bar and Air Head sours, find a movie that the kids haven’t seen before, figure out how to squeeze all four of us onto the couch, and we eat and watch together. If for some reason we have to do something else on a Friday night, then we have to promise our kids that we’ll do it on Saturday instead. We rarely miss Pizza and Movie Night. It keeps our family grounded and connected. We get to share great movies with our kids that we loved when we were their age and we get to enjoy each other’s presence. It also reminds me of what’s most important in my life.
For me, Sunday worship is just the same. It’s a sacred time to connect with family. We, the body of Christ gather once a week – not to work, not to study, not to be busy, but to just be God’s children. Worship keeps us grounded and connected to God and to each other. We get to share the ‘old old story’ that we have loved for so long. It reminds us of what is most important in our lives by rehearsing who we are and whose we are. The pattern of worship is familiar and safe, yet in our worship we are challenged to go out and bear witness to the reign of God with every breath we take. As busy and chaotic as my life seems, there are many days when I forget or get distracted.
Sometimes, I have to miss worship, ironically, because my job needs me to go be other places. Sometimes, it’s because I need to spend time with my family. Very often, I will visit people in the hospital or who have been sick or down for a while and they’ll inevitably say, “I’m sorry I just haven’t been in church for a while,” as if I was the Church Truancy Police. The more I reflect on this statement, the more I realize that people don’t (and shouldn’t) feel guilt for missing church, but instead, I think it’s an expression of their desire and longing to be present at that sacred family gathering time with God and with their community of faith. They miss it, like I do, when they can’t be here. (I’m always quick to remind people that it’s easy to jump on the live stream to join in worship any Sunday when you can’t be here.)
As my summer schedule has panned out, I realized that I will be here only three Sundays between June and July. These are the seasons of life when patterns and traditions get broken up or even forgotten. I know at my house we’ll be creating lots of extra Pizza and Movie Nights to make up for all the ones that I’ll miss, and I’ll be finding ways to worship when I can’t physically be here because I know that I will need that time. I hope and pray that you, too, will be able to find and create that sacred space this spring and summer as life pulls you in so many different directions.
Rev. Matt Ybañez
Minister with Youth and Their Families