Thursday, December 20, 2007
The Preacher’s Corner
Thermostat some sort of religious icon
Talking with a minister-friend of mine, I was amused at the sense of triumph in his voice at having countered a little “ritual” that takes place in his congregation every Sunday. It seems that one highly assertive member creeps up to the thermostat just before the service starts and cranks it up to 85. To the rest of the congregation (and my friend’s) huge relief, a special electronic thermostat has been installed that automatically resets to 70 in one minute! Of course, the member who is evidently seeking to prepare himself for the fire and brimstone that is to come, will soon find a way to contravene the system!
I am convinced that when the archaeologists dig up the ruins of our churches they will think that the thermostat was some sort of religious icon. In more churches than you would think it is up on the front wall. Is that so that people like our friend cannot monkey with it? Archaeologists will also think that the silver propane tank beside country churches was part of the religious equipment. They are ubiquitous. Some bright scientist will concoct a theory that they came from outer space.
The business of custom and ritual in churches is fascinating to ponder upon. Every church is ritualistic — not just those which recite their prayers from a book.
In fact the churches that are less formal may be more ritualistic than those that follow a set liturgy. Even in churches that say they are open to spontaneity, the special movements of the spirit tend to look pretty similar whenever they do occur.
It is very seldom that something really new or different happens in a church, and when it does, it is usually a cause for critical remark. People really do not like change, at least when it comes to their religion.
Of course, we ministers believe that we were put on this earth to be agents of change. Isn’t that what “conversion” is all about? So, if not many conversions are happening, we content ourselves by thinking up all sorts of other changes, “just to get people used to the idea.”
Like folding the bulletin. For some reason, most churches think they must have a printed bulletin. Often more work goes into making the bulletin than to thinking up the sermon. Still, if this week’s service is pretty much like last week’s and the last one hundred before, couldn’t the minister just announce the minor changes, such as this week’s hymn numbers, and the location of the scripture lesson? It sure would save a lot of trees!
But as I say, all people think the bulletin must be folded. Think of the commotion it would cause if you handed out unfolded bulletins.
People instinctively fold them in half and stuff them in their Bibles or hymn books. So we could just make folding the bulletin a ritual, and it would save the worker bees among the faithful who type and print the bulletins this dreaded piece of drudgery. It could become a meaningful group activity. The Order of Service would read like this…
Then if we just added Adjusting the Thermostat, the entire congregation would be fully engaged. Take this up with your church board. Your pastor and church secretary will thank you!
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