Watching the Pews on Sunday

by Rev Robert A Wendel

Most folks in the church know that being a chaplain at Beckley VA Medical Center is what, originally, brought me to Beckley nine years ago.  Before doing that specialized ministry, I had been a four-time pastor for congregations in New Hampshire and New York.

In my very first local clergy meeting in the Garden State, one of the more experienced fellow pastors said “Robert, over time you’ll be privileged to hear the stories of every person or family in your pews.”

So, I can’t help it.  Each Sabbath, I try and notice who has joined us in worship. Conversely, I make a mental note of who is not present that week.  There are a whole bundle of reasons why potential worshipers are missing:  the flu bug bites, health care or retail personnel must work, the car won’t start, the snow drifts are just too deep or grandchildren beckon.  My own mother worried, “I might start coughing, bothering those around me.” These days, being in church is merely a one weekend option.

A philosopher once observed that in life we always find time for the things that are really important.  Jesus put it another way “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”  Luke 12:34.  He didn’t make church-going a pre-requisite for finding the kingdom of heaven; he only promised that he would be present whenever two or three were gathered in his name (Matthew 18:20).  That, it seems to me, is a good enough reason for his fans to huddle up regularly at the meeting house.

Fred Bauer, an editor and free-lance worker for Guideposts, a trustee and fellow pew sitter who became a supporter and good friend of mine while I was a student minister at Christ Congregation, Princeton wrote, “Whenever worship becomes a burden, heal my blindness O Heavenly Father.”

Thinking about adult discipleship, Lisa Simmons of WV/ABV advised “How often we in the local church experience and allow the slow fade of adults from our community of faith.  Make it simple.  Let the person know they were missed.”