I want to write about my concept of 'church time'. This concept and belief comes from over 30 years of being a parish priest. This is what I notice when I seek to explain 'church time' to people: most clergy acknowledge it as vaguely interesting but bogus. Most people just don't get it because in our culture 'time' is an absolute: an hour is like every other hour, a day just one more day, and months--except for February of course--are equal opportunity time measurements. However, some lay people--most of whom are very involved and committed to the parish--really get it and it gives them comfort as well as understanding.
Here's Church Time in introductory fashion: Most church going folks, even if they are very committed might spend two hours a week in church--one for a Eucharist and one for a coffee hour, an adult ed class, a committee meeting. So, at two hours a week, people spend 104 hours a year in church. That is the equivalant of 13 8-hour work days spread over a year. Imagine having an 8 hr a day job which you only went to one a month or so. I would content that you wouldn't accomplish much because the memory and learning curve would be so compromised and when you showed up for your day of work you would have missed almost a month of what your company was doing. No way to catch up or stay even.
Church Time is like that. I have trouble remembering what I did yesterday, but because I was back at church today, it began to come back and I could move on and make progress. A week has 148 hours (those reliable measures of time). If two or even three of them are spent 'thinking about or participating' in church, that's barely 2% of the weeks hours. Next to nothing. You might expect to spend that much time stuck in traffic in a week--and how much of the stuck in traffic time do you retain to build upon so you might progress and grow and expand????
However, 'church professionals', like me--I sometimes tell people who ask me what I do for a living is that I am paid to be religious--spend inordinate amounts of time thinking about church stuff--worship, music, education, outreach, program, evangelism...on and on. We have, at the least 50 hours a week to obsess on church stuff. Most clergy spend more time than that, let me tell you, because we clergy are so anxious to justify our very existence and being paid to be religious...which we--and most people--would think a silly thing to make a living doing. That's another post right there...But consider this: the 'professionals' spend at least 1/3 of every week thinking about church while even active members spend 2% or so. So, should we be surprised that most church folks don't seem to understand, appreciate, respond to 'church stuff' the way the clergy and staff do? If you spent 1/3 of your time obsessing on cacti and succulents and I spent, at best--who could imagine it--2% of my time in the same study, would you expect me to appreciate the subtleties and wonder of those plants?
"Church Time" requires those of us who get paid to do it to realize that those we work with, serve and minister to simply don't have the 'connection' to the issues we worry and fret and plan and scheme about. Their learning curve is very slow rising--it looks mostly like a straight line! And that is as it should be. So when they forget a meeting or say, "I meant to come to that class but just forgot" we should realize why. Lay folks are wonderful and profound and loving and truly committed to the parish. They simply have other lives, as they should, and don't live, breath, sweat and digest church stuff.
I'll leave it at that until later. But 'church time' helps explain why clergy misinterpret lay folks so profoundly and don't recognize the beauty and grace of their contributions. It also explains why clergy are almost continually frustrated because the enormous amount of time they spend wishing, hoping and dreaming about all the church could do is totally lost on lay folks because they really don't spend much time at all worrying about that stuff.
More later about church time, okay?
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