December 9, 2005

The "family-friendly" decision to cancel church on Sunday...

When Sunday is Christmas. I'd say you're estopped from complaining about the secularization of Christmas for the next 12 months.

Oh, don't be so hard on them. They're handing out a DVD with a "heartwarming contemporary Christmas tale" for the parishioners to play in the comfort of their warm, homey homes.

Really, well, why don't they just put the regular Sunday service on a DVD and save folks the trouble of congregating for the rest of the year? And what about the people who don't have families and might have needed that service to have a warm connection to other human beings on Christmas?

What's wrong with you? Didn't I tell you there's a DVD of a heartwarming contemporary Christmas tale for heartwarming warmth? You act like single people don't have a DVD player!

54 comments:

JBlog said...

Well, I would expect the media to take a shallow, one-dimensional view on this, but that doesn't mean intelligent people have to.

While I may not agree with the decision made by those churches, I understand the logic behind the decision, and I doubt God is particularly offended.

But never let the New York Times pass up an opportunity to slap the "hypocrite" label on people whose views it doesn't agree and fan the flames of a fake "controversy. Meanwhile, it ignores its own hypocrisy and that of people it does agree with.

The Postulant said...

Lots of non-liturgical Protestants never go to church on Christmas Day. I grew up in a devout Southern Baptist family and Christmas was always celebrated in church on the Sunday before Christmas. I think your post assumes a liturgical sensibility that is far from universal among Christians. And check out the comments here, where you'll find that many of these same churches are offering huge Christmas Eve services.

Ann Althouse said...

The article isn't about not having church on Christmas. It's about canceling church on Sunday.

Steve Lewis said...

Why isn't this hypocrisy? Given a choice between going to church on the 2nd most important day of the calendar year, and opening presents on Christmas morning, many Christians are choosing the (obviously secular) option.

Is Christianity a community, or not? Does it get together for the most important shared experiences of a person's life (birth, wedding, etc) or not?

I, for one, will be attending my church on Sunday.

JBlog said...

Me too, but that doesn't mean I think this is hypocritical.

You're assuming it's about the presents, but for most Christians Christmas is about spending time with family. Some would argue that should take precedent over everything, including attending church services.

The idea that one MUST attend church on Sunday, EVERY Sunday, and can ONLY worship IN church ON Sunday, is dogmatic at best and heretical at worst.

Steve Lewis said...

Did I say someone would go to hell if they didn't show up at church on Christmas Sunday? Nope.

It's still hypocrisy.

Ann Althouse said...

You've got to distinguish the individual's choice to stay home on Christmas (very common, and I'm not criticizing this) from the church's decision to cancel services.

wildaboutharrie said...

2nd most important day? In the Catholic Church, it's actually the 3rd most holy of the holy days - after Easter and Pentecost. At least that's what I was taught...

It does seem bizarre to me not to have church on Sunday, but I'm one of those yoked to Catholic dogma.

I always attend on Christmas Eve so that Christmas morning is more relaxed, so I guess I'm half a hypocrite.

Too Many Jims said...

Am I too cynical or is it possible that the Pastor got a great deal on cruise to the Caribbean and to get the good rate he had to be gone on the 25th?

JBlog said...

So, Ann, are you saying it's okay for individuals to make the decision to stay home with their families, but churches should require their staff members -- in many cases many people -- to show up on Christmas Sunday for services very few attend, depriving them of staying home with THEIR families?

Hardly seems practical, fair or realistic.

And Steve, you're being dogmatic and judgmental -- I don't recall any requirement in the Bible about worshipping IN church ON Sunday , only on Sunday and EVERY Sunday. If you've got it, please shsre it.

BrianOfAtlanta said...

What bothers me about this is that church attendance has been reduced, in this case, to a business decision. My concern is exactly that of Mr. Witvliet as quoted in the article. I can see that a family might want to spend Christmas day at home, but what about the members who don't have family, for whom Sunday worship is a major social as well as spiritual outlet? It's unconscionable for the church to effectively say "Your presence isn't important enough for us to open up on Sunday just for you."

BrianOfAtlanta said...

jblog, as the husband of an ordained minister, I can state unequivocally that if you aren't happy showing up to serve even one person coming in off the street, you have no business being on a church staff. If it becomes a profit/loss equation, then you really need to find a different field of work. Christian service is all about serving the one, as well as the other 99.

No family of someone involved in Sunday worship expects to have their family member sitting with them on Sunday morning. If we weren't talking about Sunday morning, it would be different. However, this is as much about closing a congregation off from a regular Sunday service as it is about Christmas.

JBlog said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
JBlog said...

Many churches make provision for that, but providing other opportunities for members without families to congregate, share a meal, share company, worship and pray together on Christmas in lieu of holding a larger service.

I don't know if these churches have, but mine does (even though it also will hold services on Christmas).

Much better, I think, than coming to an empty church for a n empty service, only to go home alone.

Seems like a more practical and humane approach, as opposed to a dogmatic "we're calling everyone in and opening the doors, regardless of who does or doesn't show up" method.

Curious that the reporter didn't ask about that or report it -- but then, it really doesn't fit the story, does it?

You're all welcome to do as you wish at your churches, or not. But don't call someone else a hypocrite just because they make a different decision than you. That's just plain judgmental, and well, hypocritical.

Ann Althouse said...

A big theme of the article is that it's "megachurch" behavior.

JBlog said...

Really? Because the church I attended as a kid 25 years ago -- which never saw more than 125 members -- made precisely the same decision then.

Nothing mega about that. And nothing new about this.

This is an invented controversey.

I'm surprised you guys are falling for it -- you're smarter than this.

Steve Donohue said...

Maybe it's just where I'm from, but services at my church on Christmas were always twice or three times as full on Christmas than an ordinary Sunday. Cancelling Christmas mass would be a huge financial sacrifice. But I'm sure trends are different elsewhere.

Isn't the celebration of Jesus's birth, like, one of the reasons for the existence of churches?Providing spiritual satisfaction on what is officially one of the most important religious holidays of the year strikes me as an abdication of duty.

JBlog said...

How does one provide spiritual satisfaction to an empty room?

And where is it written that one can only provide it through an official church service held on Sunday morning?

I'm going to stay with my answer: this is a classic media rolljob.

Take a pre-conceived notion, throw in some sloppy and incomplete reporting, add a dash of someone who is offended (yeah, it's tough to find one of THOSE in this society), and PRESTO: instant controversy!

peter hoh said...

I'm flabbergasted that a church would try to justify being closed on a Sunday.

JBlog said...

Why?

Is God so small he only shows up at 8:30 and 11 a.m. on Sunday morning?

wildaboutharrie said...

Jblog, I agree with you. I can't see that this is news. If the congregation doesn't mind, it's none of my business, so long as these folks aren't at the same time complaining that the true meaning of Christmas is being lost. (Although I'm surprised that they don't offer at least one service...and the DVD seems kind of tacky.) I don't think "megachurches" claim to be particularly traditional, and they draw people who like that.

I'm much more bugged by the "C and E-ers" - folks who show up at Mass twice a year, dressed to the nines and letting their kids disrupt the prayers. Once we even had a drunk Santa at midnight Mass.

PatCA said...

Lots of "megachurches" consider themselves techno savvy, so I guess the DVD is one answer to low attendance. Doesn't seem right, though. Old Sister Mary Rose would be advising you to get thee to another parish that day or book your train trip to Hell.

And why does the NYT always sneer "megachurch"? They never say "megamosque." Another opportunity to slam those Christofascists! So, out of MSM spite, I will support the megachurch position.

Ross said...

never let the New York Times pass up an opportunity to slap the "hypocrite" label ...

Um, jblog, I read the story and somehow missed the "hypocrite" label you mentioned.

It's an interesting and slightly ironic twist that, for all the talk about Christmas, some churches will close on Christmas Sunday. There's debate about the issue, and theologians have different views.

And, actually, the story did mention that it's an "open secret" that many churches have very low attendance on Christmas.

I dunno, did you read the story? Or did you not want the facts to get in the way of your outrage?

Pastor_Jeff said...

Mark Daniels has an absolutely excellent post on this at Better Living. read his post and the comments. A few thoughts:

1) Sunday worship has an important theological basis: from the very earliest days of Christianity, Jesus' followers (with few exceptions) have gathered on Sunday to celebrate his resurrection. Why surrender that to consumerism? Be counter-cultural! Is worship such a burden? One mega-church spokesperson said not asking people to gather on Christmas is a "gift" from the church! I suggest that's a significant problem in how we view worship.

2. "Family" has become almost an idol in evangelicalism. The church is family for the Christian (see Mark 3:31-35). By not having worship, these churches are in fact taking away from family time, and doing a disservice to widows, singles, and others without family. And why does this have to take away from family, anyway? My family will be worshiping with me Dec. 25.

3. Another evangelical idol is "excellence." If we can't produce a world-class product, what's the point? Willow Creek didn't want to invest the resources to put on a media-intense service for a small crowd. That's not the mindest of ministry, but production. Have a simple service! Do you have to have drama, praise band, and videos? God was born in a feed trough in the middle of nowhere. As Mark Daniels says, "God likes simple."

What's the worst that could happen? "Only" 1,000 people show up? You're not at home on Christmas for an hour? Or, maybe people would see that you have a faith which challenges you to move beyond your own comfort to gather in praise of the God who left the glory and perfection of heaven for our sakes.

Reid Stott said...

jblog: "This is an invented controversey."

Yes, like the "War on Christmas," currently in its second annual performance on FOX.

When it comes to invented controversies, 'tis the season, apparently.

TWM said...

This is so much ado about nothing. There will be no shortage of churches open on Christmas so if you want to attend you can.

Oh, and Christians go to church on many days besides Sunday. Wed is a big day for many Protestants and Catholics usually have a Mass almost every day of the week. I haven't attended Mass on Christmas Day in decades, including when it falls on Sunday, because we attend Midnight Mass or the Children's Mass at 5:30pm on Christmas Eve.

Ann, you seem to be changing the theme of the post. First it was about not going to church on Sunday, and then it changed to "mega-churches" not having Sunday services. Like I said, Sunday is not the only day to worship the Lord, and I cannot imagine what difference it makes if the church is small or mega?

The whole point of this story being big in the news is to slam Christians as hypocrites. Maybe some are, but not going to church this Christmas Day is very low on the list of reasons.

JBlog said...

Precisely.

Apparently when people the NY Times (and others) considers to be narrowminded do something that is not narrowminded, they are branded as inconsistent hypocrites (and yes, I think that is the clear intent of the article and many of the arguments expressed here).

"You're not behaving the way I've decided you're supposed to behave, based on my preconceived notions and biases about you. Therefore, there must be something wrong with you -- I couldn't possibly be the one who is wrong here."

Gee I dunno, some people might call that...narrowminded?

teddy_kgb said...

TWM,

The point of the post, and the article in general, is not to slam Christians in general as hypocrites for not wanting to go to church this particular sunday morning.

Instead, it is about these churches capitulating to the "War on Christmas (TM)" by cancelling service on a sunday because its christmas. If you think about that statement long enough, the hypocracy of the statement becomes self evident to all. "We are cancelling our sunday service because it is christmas"

Doesn't even pass the laugh test.

Ann Althouse said...

"you're smarter than this."

Have I ever mentioned how much I hate this form of argument. Like I'm going to think Oh, I want to be considered smart, so I'd better agree with you.

A similar form argument that I also hate is: "You're better than this" or "I'm disappointed in you."

Oh, I want to be good. I'd better do what you say.

That stuff does not work on me. Disagree with the substance. Make your argument on the merits. Show faith in the actual content of your argument.

proudtobealiberal said...

I think that the point was that if the goal is to emphasize the religious nature of Christmas, it would seem to be more in the spirt of the holiday to encorage Christians to worship in church on Christmas than to threaten to boycott stores that say "holiday greetings" instead of "merry christmas."

O'Reilly and others have been trumpeting that 95% of Americans observe Christmas. But how many observe it as a religious holiday and how many observe it as an American holiday with a beautiful tree and nice presents?

JBlog said...

"Ann Althouse said...

"you're smarter than this."

Have I ever mentioned how much I hate this form of argument. Like I'm going to think Oh, I want to be considered smart, so I'd better agree with you."
substance. Make your argument on the merits. Show faith in the actual content of your argument."
I'm sorry, Ann -- I thought I was being polite and giving people the benefit of the doubt.

Let me be direct -- you're getting rolled on this story. I base this on 20 years of experience working for and with the media.

And you are smarter than that (no cajoling, stating fact) and you should know better.

And I did make my argument based on the merits.

Coco said...

"The whole point of this story being big in the news is to slam Christians as hypocrites."


How can that be the intent of the article? The article is loaded with reactions to the certain churches cancelling Christmas services...but the only sources cited are ALL other Christians. I read the article as analyzing differences in traditional churches and worship and new-guard churches and ideas about worship.

The only bias regarding this article and posts that I can discern are your obvious anti-NYT bias. Nothing wrong with that per se, but like all biases I believe it has colored your analysis of this article.

Ann Althouse said...

JBlog: You're just messing up you're own argument with that added material. It makes it look like you don't believe the argument can stand on its own. Plus it's designed to get a rise out of the other side. It's a stupid move strategically. I actually agree with you that the Times is slanting this article. Nevertheless, I do not think churches should be cancelling Sunday services, and the line that it's "family-friendly" is just so wrong.

The Postulant said...

Thanks, Coco, for making clearly a point akin to the one I was trying to make above (but made so elliptically as to be completely incomprehensible). For many non-liturgical Protestants, Sunday is the principal day for worship, and Christmas is a day to spend with family. When Christmas falls on a Sunday, these two guiding principles conflict, and the question is which wins out. Some might find it more reasonable to combine or even cancel services on Christmas Sunday, particularly if there are big services on Christmas Eve. Others might find it more reasonable to hold Sunday worship as usual. Starting from the general principles and commitments of such churches, either choice seems defensible to me. I'm an Anglo-Catholic, so I start from rather different presuppositions, but I can see the logic of the megachurches' decision.

Moreover (not that this would weigh at all with non-liturgical Christians), Christian tradition holds that worship after sundown counts, so to speak, for the next day. That's why Christmas Eve worship is Christmas worship, not Advent worship. The after-sundown requirement is rather a dead letter -- certainly I've played the organ at a lot of Saturday Vigil masses that were held in broad daylight. But my point is that if you wanted to offer a defense of canceling services on Christmas Sunday, you could do so even from a more traditional perspective, provided that you offered sufficient Christmas Eve services.

Pastor_Jeff said...

Saying the Times is just picking an easy way to bash Christians doesn't address the substance of the concerns expressed by the Times and by many Christians.

Christians can gather on any day to worship - true. But that proves too much. The issue is cancelling normally scheduled worship. And I think it's because of a recognition that the church can't compete against consumerism. Spinning that decision as "family-friendly" is disingenuous.

The season is about Jesus - not me, not my family, not presents. Exchanging gifts is fine. But isn't the church supposed to help us to focus on what's actually important in the midst of everything else? Frankly, I think the church needs to encourage people by example that it's possible, helpful, and maybe even necessary to STOP
.
.
.
.
and seek worship, simplicity, and quiet in the face of all the noise and clamor of the season.

As I wrote in my post about this, If the exchange of gifts is so demanding and draining that we can't get to worship, is the problem with worship or with how much energy and focus we put on the presents? The season is about Jesus and our heartfelt gratitude to God for Him, right? Christians are not people who have some religious duty to fulfill by going to church. We are people whose hearts and lives have been so transformed by God's grace that we can't not worship, who ache with longing to gather together and sing God's praise.

JBlog said...

"Ann Althouse said...

JBlog: You're just messing up you're own argument with that added material. It makes it look like you don't believe the argument can stand on its own. Plus it's designed to get a rise out of the other side. It's a stupid move strategically. I actually agree with you that the Times is slanting this article. Nevertheless, I do not think churches should be cancelling Sunday services, and the line that it's "family-friendly" is just so wrong.
"

Wow, that's nice. I assume you're smart. You assume I'm stupid. Tell me exactly how that improves the dialogue.

My argument stands on the facts, on its merits and on my professional analysis of the Times story.

You may BELIEVE that the "family-friendly" position is wrong, but it's just that -- a belief. Not a fact.

And that's kind of my point -- people have a right to believe as they wish and worship as they wish.

But it's wrong to poke at the choices others make about the same -- much less allow yourself to be goaded into arguing about them by a party who seems to be pretty clearly intent on provoking such a disagreement.

Pastor_Jeff said...

Ann,

I just want to say that I reread your original post and laughed out loud. Brutally great satire! Thanks!

Eli Blake said...

I remember when people who didn't go to church very often were sometimes called, 'Christmas and Easter' Christians.

Now, I grew up Jewish (I've since gotten baptized into the LDS church). One thing I do see is that in Judaism, there are a lot of religious holidays, and they are important, and they get celebrated (hint: I can name you at least a half dozen Jewish holidays that are more important, and are celebrated as being more important, than Hannukah). In Christianity, there seem to be fewer holidays, and they aren't celebrated nearly as much. Christmas and Easter (starting with Good Friday) should be the two holiest days on the Christian calendar. And yet we are talking about cancelling church on Christmas?

I'm not a Roman Catholic but I will give them this: the Catholic church really takes religious holidays with the proper degree of importance.

Nathan said...

JBlog:

As an avid reader of many Methodist blogs, I can tell you that this is not, in any way, a "manufactured controversy" by the media. There were heated debates throughout the religious blogosphere for several days before the first article ever appeared in the MSM.

Harkonnendog said...

I'm really late to this argument- but JBlog, if you're still here, here is where you go wrong:

"for most Christians Christmas is about spending time with family."

1st, Churches should not be supporting this, IF it is true.
2nd, it is NOT true.

Then there's this:
"to show up on Christmas Sunday for services very few attend, depriving them of staying home with THEIR families?"
Hello? It is a church, not a JOB. If you think of it as a job, you might as well say stadium fast food vendors should not be forced to work during the Superbowl. Christmas isn't just another day to Christians, after all.

Then there's this:
"Much better, I think, than coming to an empty church for a n empty service, only to go home alone."
And this:
"How does one provide spiritual satisfaction to an empty room?"
As if those are the only two choices. As if these mega churches can't turn Christmas Sunday service into a good thing- as if they can't promote it- as if they shouldn't...

Then there's this:
"Is God so small he only shows up at 8:30 and 11 a.m. on Sunday morning?"
Is He so small he needs a church at all? Ever? No. So what? So why ever go if it is a little inconvenient?

And no, JBlog- I'm not hypnotized nor mezmerized by the mind altering powers of the NYTimes- I doubt anybody here is. I can think the idea of churches not opening on Christmas sucks without the NYSlimes telling me so.


I agree that they attack Christianity regularly- and that many of those attacks are unfounded. But really the messenger has nothing to do with the message.

Ross said...

Well our fair-minded host agrees the newspaper was "slanting" the story. Honest question because I'm curious: How so? And how much of that sense of "slant" is colored by the source? How would you read the same words posted on, oh, beliefnet.com?

I'm genuinely curious because I don't see what others apparently do.

JBlog said...

Well, I'm clearly all wrong here.

No one has a right to worship as they choose. Everyone has a right to criticize how everyone else does it.

The New York Times story was fair, thoughtful, well researched, careful and inclusive.

Christmas is not about families. It's about presents.

Working at a church is not a job and the people in the ministry are expected to foresake all, including their own families, to perform services on Christmas Sunday, which no one will attend.

How could I have been so stupid?

Coco said...

The only thing "stupid" about your posts Jblog is your blatant misrepresenations of other posts:

"Christmas is not about families. It's about presents." No one said or even suggested this so its "stupid" to imply that people disagreeing with you about the content of an article are materialistic and anti-family.

Ann, I'm also curious as to why thinks this article is "slanted." I could see one believing its "slanted" in the sense that it seems to favor the more tradional viewpoint of Christians attending church on Christmas - but that certainly isn't an anti-Christian "slant" (Not sayingthat's what you thought Ann).

Harkonnendog said...

Geeze, Jblog, could you please use more straw man arguments?

I guess I'm wrong and you're right, JBlog. Opening a church on Christmas day IS a sin. The New York Times really IS run by acid-dropping oompah-loompahs who want to be elves and so try to commercialize Christmas by ending Christianity. Greek statues DO move in the dead of night if you whistle Bruce Springsteen's Philadelphia. Dah da da dah- Dah da da dah- Dah da dah dah- Dah da-dah dah dah-

Nathan said...

"No one has a right to worship as they choose. Everyone has a right to criticize how everyone else does it."

First sentence: who said anything remotely approaching the idea that a church doesn't have the "right" to worship as they choose?

Second sentence: yes, that is my understanding of the First Amendment.

So your straw-man should read: "Everyone has a right to worship as they choose. Everyone has a right to criticize how everyone else does it." I could agree with that.

Nathan said...

And as for the idea that "no one will attend" Christmas Day services...

My home (childhood) church does not normally hold a special Christmas Day service, nor does my wife's. However, both of our churches are holding services on Christmas this year because it's Sunday. So we'll be attending church on Christmas, even though it interferes with our normal, family-fun Christmas activities -- the only question for us is which one of our churches to attend.

Ann Althouse said...

I like the idea that Sunday trumps Christmas. Sunday is important. It's one of the Ten Commandments. Where does the Bible command you to celebrate Christmas? "Do this in remembrance of me": was that Jesus reminding us to celebrate his birthday?

How was the Times article slanted? I just got a certain gleeful vibe from it. I could be wrong about that. I think they wouldn't go after other religions with the same vigor.

Jacques Cuze said...

An example of the slowly disappearing tendency of the legal profession to speak in secret code. All it means is 'stopped,' 'blocked' or 'not allowed.' Not only is it bizarre but the term does not appear to originate in any known language. Our research indicates it started either as a legal fraternity's drunken prank or was the result of an unknown Judge's severe speech impediment.

(consider using iStopped, it's much more with it.)

downtownlad said...

Of course the article was gleeful. These churches are so eager to malign others for not being religious enough, yet here they are breaking one of the Ten Commandments.

In other words, many of the members of these Protestant evangelical sects are complete hypocrites.

You would never find a Jewish Temple closed on the Sabbath. You would never find a Catholic Church closed on Sunday. And you wouldn't find the vast majority of Protestant churches closed on Sunday either.

But these ones that are closing - sorry - but maybe they should look at themselves before criticizing others.

Ross said...

Would that more news stories had a gleeful vibe. It's all such a bummer anymore.

Downtownlad, do you have any evidence that a particular church that is closing was actually being particularly active in "criticizing others"? It's been made clear, I think, that churches and denominations disagree about the merits of the practice.

XWL said...

The Times article ignores the position within the evangelical ecosystem these megachurches occupy.

They often aren't its congregates only church. They are set up as spectacle, and often have speakers, performers, presentations that call out to different congregations to bring in people to experience what they have to offer.

Their purpose is as much entertainment as it is scriptual and spiritual. And the expense of putting on a show on a Christmas Sunday when many of the faithful would prefer returning to the small neighborhood church of their youth would seem wise to avoid.

You can debate the wisdom or taste of these churches in the abstract and whether or not their gloss is crass and antithetical towards their supposed spiritual mission, but that wasn't what the Times article did.

That the Times would feel the need to cover this 'controversy' feels suspect and full of schadenfraude.

Does anyone believe that the editors at the Times don't see these folks as 'The Enemy'?

Ross said...

Xwl, I appreciate that bit of perspective about the role of those churches.

But then you say the article didn't debate "the wisdom and taste" of the churches' stance on the issue.

I see quoted discussing precisely the "wisdom and taste":

1. A professor of New Testament interpretation.

2. The director of the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship at Calvin Colleg.

3. The spokesman for the Episcopal Church USA.

4. An official from the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.

5. The senior pastor of a giant (25,000 members ... wow!) Baptist Church in Atlanta?

6. Some academic sociologists of religion.

I mean, the majority of the article is various Christians ministers or theologians discussing the issue. What more debate do you want from a daily newspaper?

joewxman said...

As to the idea of cancelling church to spend time with families...at least with me, going to church is about spending time with family since as a family we go to church together; but thats neither here nor there. But at least for a change we Catholics are not involved in this since christmas servies (at least at my church) after sundown on Saturday are both the Christmas Day/Sunday service. We get to kill two birds with one stone(a miracle in itself!)

Hazen said...

The old man went to meetin', for the day was bright and fair,
Though his limbs were very totterin', and 'twas hard to travel there;
But he hungered for the Gospel, so he trudged the weary way
On the road so rough and dusty, 'neath the summer's burning ray.


By and by he reached the building, to his soul a holy place;
Then he paused, and wiped the sweat drops off his thin and wrinkled face;
But he looked around bewildered, for the old bell did not toll,
And the doors were shut and bolted, and he did not see a soul.


So he leaned upon his crutches, and he said, "What does it mean?"
And he looked this way and that, till it seemed almost a dream;
He walked the dusty highway, and he breathed a heavy sigh--
Just to go once more to meetin', ere the summons came to die.



But he saw a little notice, tacked upon the meetin' door,
So he limped along to read it, and he read it o'er and o'er.
Then he wiped his dusty glasses, and he read it o'er again,
Till his limbs began to tremble and his eyes began to pain.


As the old man read the notice, how it made his spirit burn!
"Pastor absent on vacation--church is closed till his return."
Then he staggered slowly backward. and he sat him down to think,
For his soul was stirred within him, till he thought his heart would sink.


So he mused along and wondered, to himself soliloquized--
"I have lived to almost eighty, and was never so surprised,
As I read that oddest notice, stickin' on the meetin' door,
'Pastor on vacation' -- never heard the like before."



"Why, when I first jined the meetin', very many years ago,
Preachers traveled on the circuit, in the heat and through the snow;
If they got their clothes and vittels ('twas but little cash they got),
They said nothin' 'bout vacation, but were happy in their lot."


"Would the farmer leave his cattle, or the shepherd leave his sheep?
Who would give them care and shelter, or provide them food to eat?
So it strikes me very sing'lar when a man of holy hands
Thinks he needs to have vacation, and forsakes his tender lambs."


"Did St. Paul git such a notion? Did a Wesley or a Knox?
Did they in the heat of summer turn away their needy flocks?
Did they shut their meetin' house, just go and lounge about?
Why, they knew that if they did Satan certainly would shout."



"Do the taverns close their doors, just to take a little rest?
Why, 'twould be the height of nonsense, for their trade would be distressed.
Did you ever know it happen, or hear anybody tell,
Satan takin' a vacation, shuttin' up the doors of hell?"


"And shall preachers of the gospel pack their trunks and go away,
Leavin' saints and dyin' sinners git along as best they may?
Are the souls of saints and sinners valued less than settlin' beer?
Or do preachers tire quicker than the rest of mortals here?"


"Why it is I cannot answer, but my feelings they are stirred;
Here I've dragged my totterin' footsteps for to hear the Gospel Word,
But the preacher is a travelin' and the meetin' house is closed;
I confess it's very tryin', hard, indeed, to keep composed."



"Tell me, when I tread the valley and go up the shining height,
Will I hear no angels singin' --will I see no gleamin' light?
Will the golden harps be silent? Will I meet no welcome there?
Why, the thought is most distressin', would be more than I could bear."


"Tell me, when I reach the city over on the other shore,
Will I find a little notice tacked upon the golden door,
Tellin' me 'mid dreadful silence, writ in words that cut and burn--
'Jesus absent on vacation, heaven closed till His return.' "

Unknown Author.

I don't know how much it applies, but I always thought it was funny.