Saturday, May 8, 2010

The Hijacking of the Church Year

Once again our parish council dealt with but another request for an "Emphasis Sunday" by a parachurch organization (RSO to use the Missouri lingo).  We have a District Sunday coming up and a Synod Sunday, and we could have an emphasis Sunday from some aspect of Synod's structure or a worthy cause literally every week.  It is without end.  We are inundated with full color bulletin inserts and dvds of PowerPoint presentations and video and posters.  It is a never ending stream of worthy causes with all their PR to back up their claims of need and importance and urgency.  I am not suggesting that any of these are anything less than they say.  My question has to do with the Church Year.

Tomorrow is Mother's Day is most of our churches (good fall on the calendar since most Pastors are not so sure the 6th Sunday of Easter is all that important anyway).  And a week from now the Sunday after the Ascension will become Armed Forces Sunday and later this month the Holy Trinity will compete with Memorial Day. I could continue the list but I won't.  The sanctoral calendar is one step below the Sundays of the Season and the Sundays of the Season have to compete with the secular calendar and the "Emphasis Sundays" that come to us from myriad of sources within the Church.

The point is that it is no wonder that the Church Year is so foreign to the life of God's people.  It did, after all, come to us from the calendar of feasts and festivals for Israel, transformed by the events in the life of the Lord and the ordinary time devoted to the teaching of Jesus.  But it is so very distant from us and from our lives in part because of the many things that displace, complete with, or detract from the Church Year and the sanctoral calendar.

We try to minimize them in this parish and we do have a monthly mission emphasis for our Sunday school offerings (of adults and children) that does include some of these causes.  But we have deliberately chosen NOT to have them on Sunday morning.  We follow the Church Year and the calendar of our congregation is the Church's calendar.  Now mind you, we have taken some hits from this.  Even within our own District there have been a few folks who thought us petty because we do not have District Sunday or Synod Sunday.  We include a very significant sum from our general offerings for this (about 10% of our income) and we believe that this is the better way than having appeals and spokespersons for these causes every week.

We do have people who find it cold or callous that we do not hand out roses on Mother's Day and sing "Faith of our Mothers Living Still" (no joke, some churches do change the words for this day) and some complain that we are not patriotic because we do not have a color guard bring in the flag on Memorial Day or when the Fourth of July falls on a Sunday (this year).  So it is not without some heat within our own pews that we keep the Church calendar as this church's calendar.

I am curious as to how others handle these requests, the secular calendar, and the myriad of emphasis Sundays... let me know


Dan at Necessary Roughness said...

The Emphasis Sundays sometimes bring horrid preaching. I've seen more than one pastor extol the virtues of mothers or his mother on Mother's Day while delivering the full weight of the Law on Father's Day. Mothers are awesome, fathers suck, and Jesus may or may not make a cameo.

Rev. David M. Juhl said...

There is an LC-MS congregation not far from me that goes all out on Grandparents Day. Instead of "Faith of our Fathers" it's "Faith of our Grandparents, Living Still". The pastor in question brought bulletins for all the circuit pastors to a winkel. He was proud.

+ Robert Wurst said...

Nothing secular. Nothing synodical. Ever. Only the church's calendar -- and the one year at that.

We will offer a petition for mother's, etc. in the Prayer. After all, I am not utterly heartless ;)

Dr.D said...

In my Anglican parish, tomorrow will be Rogation Sunday, the 5th Sunday after Easter. We follow the Kalendar rigorously, with only a passing nod to the secular year if it is convenient within the context of the day. I am convinced that the teaching cycle of the Church Year is far too important to be interrupted by these other matters. They can be addressed by appropriate Collects and by mention in the bulletin.

Karyn said...

Pastor Peters, I am glad you’ve brought this up because in general, I agree with your assessment that the Church Year has been hijacked by the prevailing, worldly, majority’s ideas on what should be valued and emphasized in the Church community. I am very glad to read that you keep the Church calendar and not the secular calendar.

When the Church joins in publically honoring certain earthly roles or interests above others according to the biased, worldly assignment of values, it inevitably hurts and offends people. Ultimately, it can contribute to driving people out of a Church community. Dan, above, mentioned the inordinate amount of attention mothers receive, but at least there is a “Father’s Day.” :) There is no single’s day or day of honor for those who are called by God to be married and not have children and believe me, the people who are called to these roles have it rougher than most people could ever imagine. Are all these roles of equal value to God? The Church knows the answer to that question is “Yes” but instead follows the worldly assignment of values when it comes to these matters. 1 Tim. 5:17 describes the role to which “double honor” is associated but even there, one may check out TLSB Notes for an interpretation of what that means.

All in all, I believe it is best to stick with the Church calendar in Church services, just as Pastor Peters has discussed. That would be the wisest and most faithful way for Church leadership to operate.

George said...

There's only two emphasis Sundays that I use: LWML Sunday & Life Sunday. And even then I hardly use the LWML materials since they have gotten so bad & usually include only a prayer for LWML & their hymn of praise to themselves. LWML is dying out in my congregation anyway. For Life Sunday I'll usually use most of their stuff including one of the sermons Lutherans for Life provides.

For Mothers' Day all I usually do is include a prayer.

Tim said...

I have come to dread Emphasis Sundays and/or replacing the Church Calendar with a secular holiday.

I have no problem with giving a mention of a specific holiday in the prayers- providing the holiday is a, er, crazy one. Like for example with mother's day tomorrow. I have no problem with a prayer of thanksgiving for mothers in the Prayers of the Church.

This all kind of came to head a couple years ago when, at my former church, the pastor decided to preach Mother's Day... instead of Pentecost. I pretty much forsook the secular calendar at that point.

Rev. Eric J Brown said...

The only thing I might do is use a bulletin cover for LWML day - have an extra petition for them, and maybe mention them in passing. Other than that. . .nothing. . . not even life Sunday. I'll do greetings in announcements and the like - but Church is time for Church.

Rev. Luke T. Zimmerman said...

Pretty much no "Emphasis Sundays" at my parish. They might get mention in the Prayer of the Church, such as the petition for mothers today [Mothers' Day]. "LWML Sunday" is sometimes used to install the women's auxiliary officers, but that's it. Synodical boards/institutions don't get anything but a bulletin insert.

The one "civil day" that gets play is Independence Day when it falls on a Sunday. (I'm using the LBW Propers for a Civil Holiday for July 4 this year.) This gives the opportunity to preach on the topic of obedience to governing authorities who bear divine power in the Left-Hand Realm.

As for Thanksgiving Day, I've been alternating use of Day of Thanksgiving Propers and the Harvest and Thanksgiving Propers. This was to help move it from simply a "holiday" instituted by government to a time of thinking on how the Lord God has shown His providential love to us again in the past year.

Rev. Kevin Jennings said...

I did preach on Mother's Day yesterday (gasp), but primarily focused on our holy mother Church. On days like Mother's Day, before the Invocation Hymn, I take a poll - number of children, age of mothers...

No one asks me to preach a "patriotic" sermon on July 4 anymore - they don't want to hear that business about revolting against the authority of the king. No, we don't sing The Battle Hymn of the Republic, either - I will not have a Yankee war song in a congregation I serve. Generally, on July 4, after the benediction and a departing hymn, before everyone is dismissed, I invite folks to stand and join me in the Pledge of Allegiance.

Veterans Day and Armed Forces Day can be touchy for us veterans. Again, like Mother's Day, a poll is taken - who served in what service (and, having served in both the Marine Corps and the Navy, I usually take a slight dig at the Air Force).

Like you all, we get more pleas for special Sundays than we could shake a stick at. My secretary and I pick and choose which bulletin inserts will see the face of parishioners, and there aren't many. For those causes, while many are worthwhile endeavors, I'm very protective of the people I serve and am not wont to subject them to endless calling and harassment if they decide to give to something. If something is worthwhile, I communicate this to the Board of Elders and we decide to take a door offering on a particular Sunday. That may happen about two or three times a year.

Otherwise, it's the Church Calendar, and don't bug me, even if you're the Synod or District.

Padre Dave Poedel said...

We do NO emphasis Sundays in our parish; strictly the Liturgical calendar for the Church Year. That way no one or everyone is offended when their favorite emphasis Sunday is not celebrated. At best, the emphasis day may get mention in a prayer petition, but that's bulletin inserts, no nothing.