July 24, 2016
Why are Sunday church services traditionally scheduled for 11:00 AM?
This answer comes from the time when the United States of America was an agricultural society. Eleven o'clock AM was then, and still is (on standard, as opposed to daylight savings time), about half way between the morning and evening milking. It certainly made sense in the 18th and 19th centuries to find times convenient for farm life. But it is an affirmation about how hard it is to get people to change their habits that 11:00 AM is still so common in many areas of the country.
Life for us has changed since 11:00 AM was "the" time to go to church. In our case times have been added: 8:00 AM first, and then 7:45 AM for the "program year" (September through May), and then 9:00 AM. All these changes were made to accommodate new ways of living in Great Falls.
Life, however, has changed again. And some parishioners want to combine the 9:00 AM and 11:00 AM services on Sunday morning. Some interesting observations have been made about church at 10:00 AM this summer: 1) more folks mean more energy, 2) the chance to reconnect with friends who attend at different services the rest of the year, 3) the chance to hear the full choir for those who go at 9:00 AM, and 4) the ease of scheduling LEMS, ushers, and acolytes.
The Vestry and I have begun a discussion about the idea of two Sunday morning services. We have some initial thoughts about the impact: 1) we believe that to decrease our service schedule would likely mean a movement toward a permanently smaller congregation, and 2) there is less reason to have two clergy. We are not ready to make this move. Rather, we would like to take the next year to discern the best options for service times and formats (and they may not all be on Sunday morning).
We are looking for help in reviewing this idea and are inviting the congregation to enter into discussion with us. During this year, we will be in discernment and will form a small group to prayerfully listen to God's direction on this, including our needs, the demands of the Great Falls area, and the demands on our parishioners.
We will also be trying some things to redefine 9 AM service: 1) livelier and more familiar service music and hymns, 2) shorter versions of the Prayers, and 3) shorter sermons designed to engage children and adults. Restructuring seems more positive than downsizing and more in keeping with God's desires of spreading the Gospel. Times may change but God's love is forever.
The Rev. David Lucey