If you’re like me, I try to catch people whenever I can to have conversations about church related business. Even though I should know better (I am the pastor, after all), I sometimes drop my guard to conduct such business conversations on Sunday morning before or after worship. What’s often compelling about using this time is that I seldom see some of the people with whom I need to be in conversation during the remainder of the week.
But I’m obliged to be reminded, from time to time, of how they may view the intrusion. Normally, lay persons who hold leadership positions, as well as staff members, are normally too kind to mention that they are really here on Sunday mornings to focus on worship. It is difficult for them to refocus on church business while they are preparing to enter into a time of worship, or following worship when they are hoping to connect with people on either a social or pastoral basis rather than a business basis.
I remember one horror story of an employee serving in one of my previous churches where she was actually interrupted while standing in line to receive the Sacrament of Holy Communion in the midst of worship in the sanctuary to be asked a question related to a business issue of which she had some knowledge. While this is, perhaps, the extreme, such instances can and do frequently occur when people come to me to discuss business–or when I go unwittingly to them to discuss business.
So, I’m sharing this bit of worship etiquette for your benefit–as well as for my own–in an attempt to aspire to the title of that well-known hymn: “Take Time to be Holy.”
If you have a business related question to ask me, another staff member, or one of the leaders of our various boards, councils and committees, please either write it down on a piece of paper and leave it on our desk or in our mailbox for us to respond early in the week. Thank you, Michael Herzog, for being the master of this form of communication! If you prefer, you may call our phone number and leave a detailed voice message or text message to which we may later respond. I know that many of you don’t like to call the church office because of the long welcome recording. Here’s a secret! If you hit 10 or 0 as soon as the message starts, you’ll get directly into the voicemail system. Of course, you may always reach us Monday morning by email or phone to discuss your question or issue during normal business hours.
Finally, the time we spend before and after worship is critical to both our pastoral care and hospitality to guests. Please read this excerpt from one of our guests this past Sunday: “Lee! Great to see you yesterday and appreciated the provocative sermon–and you should be equally proud of the warm greeting I received from several of your parishioners who spotted me as a ‘newbie’ and went out of their way to say welcome!” For some, this may be the only chance we have to say welcome. For others, this may be the only time we notice someone’s loss or pastoral need.
So, for our times together on Sunday mornings, let’s remember that it is a sacred time for our own worship as well as for the welcoming of guests and for the pastoral care conversations with others as we turn our focus toward building a loving community to invite persons into a relationship with Jesus Christ.