Thinking it through

Late for church - does it matter?

Late for church - does it matter?
Stephen Rees
Stephen Rees Stephen Rees is pastor of Grace Baptist Church, Stockport.
04 June, 2023 12 min read

Why are people late for church?

I think of a family that I knew well when I was growing up. Every Sunday morning that family would arrive late for church. They would arrive after the first hymn had been sung and the minister was leading in prayer. They would wait in the foyer for the prayer to end. As the pianist struck the opening notes of the second hymn, they would shuffle in and look around for a place to sit.

Sometimes, if the building was full, the family had to split up and sit apart. One of the children might have to push his way along a row of people to claim a free seat. Another might wander up and down the aisle until everyone in a row had shifted their possessions and moved along to make room. By the time the hymn was ended, the family was usually all seated, one perhaps squeezed in uncomfortably behind a pillar, another on the pulpit steps. And then, come the evening, the performance was repeated again.

I still wonder why it was like that – not occasionally but every week. Presumably they knew how long it took to get to church. They knew what time they needed to set out in order to get there on time. They knew what had to be done before they left the house. And yet week after week they arrived seven or eight minutes late. Why didn’t they start their preparations nine (or even ten) minutes earlier? I don’t know, but it didn’t happen.

When the clocks were put forward i0n the spring, they must have left their house an hour earlier than they had the previous week. Because they didn’t arrive an hour and seven minutes late; they arrived late by the same seven or eight minutes as the week before. And when the clocks were turned back in autumn, that didn’t mean that at last they could get there on time. No, they were still late by exactly the same margin.

I went to the same school as some of the children from that family. Most mornings they got to school on time. Some of them were in sports teams. They got to matches on time. The father of the family was himself a teacher. Presumably he arrived at his classes on time. I imagine that when the members of the family had an appointment with the doctor or the dentist, they arrived on time. But when it came to church? ...

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