The Purpose of it All: Sunday isn’t broken, the rest of the week is

In light of yesterday’s post on the ways in which salvation looks different than I often hope it will, I read with interest a commentary piece on the Religion News Service (RNS) by an Episcopal Priest named Tom Ehrich, entitled “Sunday Mornings are Broken.”  In the op/ed, Father Tom uses the shifting trend away from PCs and toward tablets and smartphones as a way to argue that Sunday morning is no longer the most important part of Church life and as such, we should take resources away from Sunday worship and invest them in weekday activities like small groups, mission activities and “lively online offerings.”  He stops short of suggesting that Sunday morning should go away entirely, a proposition I once heard Bart Campolo, Tony’s son, suggest during a rain delay at the Indy 500, but he stops just short.

I appreciate where Father Tom is coming from, and I agree with him, wholeheartedly, that if all a parish is offering is Sunday morning worship, then the writing is on the wall, but I think his comparison with the changing personal computer industry is flawed.  In the same way that an iPad does some things much better and some things much worse than a traditional computer, I think that Monday through Saturday Christianity does some things much better: community building, developing an outward focus, encouraging Christian education, and establishing whole life stewardship; and some things much worse: creating praying and worshiping communities of faith and being a part of something larger than one’s self, being two prime examples.  To have one without the other is to be detrimental to our shared mission as disciples of Jesus: a mission we share with one another and a mission we share with God.

The Collect for Christ the King articulates quite beautifully the mission of God in our midst, “Almighty and everlasting God, whose will it is to restore all things in your well-beloved Son, the King of kings and Lord of lords…”  Conveniently, the mission of the Church, as spelled out in the Catechism lines up quite easily with the mission of God, “The mission of the Church is to restore all people to unity with God and each other in Christ” (BCP, 855).    What I find most telling as we debate the merits of Sunday versus Monday through Saturday Christianity are the two follow-up questions:

How does the Church pursue its mission?
The Church pursues its mission as it prays and worship, proclaims the Gospel, and promotes justice, peace, and love.
Through whom does the Church carry out its mission?
The Church carries out its mission through the ministry of all its members. (BCP, 855)

I agree with Father Tom, in that for too long, the Church has focused only on prayer, worship, and proclaiming the Gospel, but that doesn’t mean that Sunday morning is broken.  Instead, what broke was our ability to be Christians the rest of the week.  We forgot the stuff after the and, “promoting justice, peace, and love,” all while fostering a “Father knows best” attitude toward ministry when the Church’s mission – God’s mission – should be lived out in the work of every Christian.

It isn’t about giving up on Sunday morning, but rather, it is about embracing one of the core values of a Christian community like Thad’s in the Diocese of LA, “We are Monday-Saturday followers of Jesus, who worship on Sunday.”  Or, as one of our young adults said at a recent community conversation dinner, “I want a church that feeds me on Sunday, but are my family and friends all week long.”

That’s what its all about.  That’s how our mission meets the mission of God.

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