What happened to Sundays?

My earliest memories of Sundays were when dad came to pick us up and took us out for the day. Sometimes a picnic, sometimes back to his house to play with my half-sisters. It was always a treat day for me, which involved sweeties and pocket-money (perhaps the real reason I enjoyed them so much.)

Some childhood Sundays were long lie-ins, late brunch (but we never called it that back then) and lying on the floor watching black and white movies. Mum would do the ironing for back to school the next day and we would have a bath, wash our hair, and dry it by lying next to the electric fire. This explains the bad hair days I had in all those photographs of my childhood.

As I got older Sundays were mostly hungover days and were days of rest, reading and watching bad TV, except for those old movies. Sometimes I don’t think I even got dressed.

When I was first married and had the boys, long lies were out of the question and some shops started to trade on a Sunday. Often we would walk down to John Menzies on Princes Street which was a big book store and browse for hours before buying a paperback or more.

But I was always a night person – an owl rather than a lark. Sunday mornings were meant for sleep and dozing and breakfast in bed if at all possible.

Then I found Church and it all changed. Overnight I became a lark. Up and dressed and raring to go across the road to church as the bell tolled and people from miles around gathered together. I never missed a Sunday except for one occasion when I was very ill. And what I did on Sundays at church spread out into my life and happened on other days too, and in evenings and in groups and in pubs. I loved the structure of Sunday and over time it changed – sometimes pub after for lunch, sometimes going on to someone’s house to laugh and talk theology and drink, sometimes back for Evensnog and Benediction, sometimes going out with church friends.

When I was ordained Sundays changed again. There were early services to attend or take, main services and clearing up to do after, coffee to share and home communions to take out to the housebound. It always began with Radio 4 and sometimes a bit of The Archers as I drove between one church and another. Sundays then became quite tiring days as I’d slump in the afternoon when I got home. Tiring in the afternoon because there was such a buzz in the morning. Sometimes a wee nana-nap had to be taken if there was an evening service to do. At this church the routine was church at 10am then coffee and a blether which could go on for some considerable time, and then the Lunch Bunch (single folk who live alone) would head off to The Steading for lunch which could go on till almost 4pm by the time we have sorted the world’s problems out. It was great. Social and pastoral and theology and mission all rolled in to one.

And then there is now. One week coffee after church was stopped because of the risk, and the next the church was closed.  And that was a couple of months ago. Oh how I miss it all. I miss the Eucharist most of all. But I also miss the people so much. I miss the conversations about nothing in particular. Yes, I do have conversations by phone now but they mostly consist of coronavirus talk and health. I miss the visuals we created in church to mark the liturgical year. I miss the laughter. I miss preaching to people I can see. I miss the music – oh how I miss that! I am missing my 50 days of unremitting joy. Holy Week was just agony but for all the wrong reasons. Easter Sunday was painful because we were to have an adult baptism as well as all the rest of the razzamatazz.  Yes, every week I sit down at 10am and I go through our spirit communion service. I read the readings and I try to contemplate them as best I can. I pray for those who are sick and I pray for all the others who are affected in different ways. I don’t do anything online as so few of my congregation could access it easily, and I feel it would be excluding them if I did it for some. Of course, there is plenty of religion to be found. I could join Zoom churches aplenty, there are Provincial services, friends’ services from cathedrals to small churches like mine. At the beginning I watched them all: the good and the not-so-good. But I’m afraid they are just not doing it for me. I just don’t feel part of it without my own little flock.

When will it go back to how it was before? Should it go back to how it was before? What will the ‘new normal’ be like? I don’t know and I can’t even imagine. With the age profile of my congregation I know they would mostly like it to be exactly as it was before. They want Sundays back just like its aye been. And you know, I want that too. Just now I really, really want my Sundays to be just like they were before all this happened. Yes, its made me more aware of my housebound folk and how we can do more for them and that will continue. But right now I am mourning the loss of my Sundays and all they contained.

Why Sunday Is one of the most Essential Day of the Week for Your ...

Warning to my little flock

This is a warning to whoever asked me to put something in the pew sheet next week (see 3 below).

  1. I may look as if I am engaging in that conversation with you on Sunday after church.
  2. I may look as if I am listening to your ideas as we sip coffee together on Sunday in the hall.
  3. I may even nod and agree to put your suggestion on to the pew sheet next week as promised.
  4. I may pocket your little envelope with money in it for something or other or accept your fiver for the magazine fund.
  5. I may agree to a meeting to be held in the rectory 3 months from now on a Thursday at 10am.

However, this is what is really going on…

  1. I am indeed listening to your conversation but I am also thinking about why there was absolutely no response to that sermon, why the choir didn’t seem to know that second hymn at all, why the roof only leaks on to the Advent Wreath when the wind is in a certain direction, whether I can phone the council about the use of the digger outside just as the service began, and when I can take these shoes off because they are nipping like hell.
  2. I am listening to your ideas but I am also wondering why I didn’t come up with it myself, thinking who on earth is going to carry them out because it certainly ain’t gonna be me, pondering why the last rector left, wondering who put that poster up on the notice board of a religious event which you’d rather stick pins in your eyes than attend, and trying to recall which of the Margarets you are. You are a Margaret, yes?
  3. Honestly I do intend to put your suggestion in the pew sheet. I really do. You do know that I don’t do the pew sheet, don’t you? You do know that I am actually thinking of a black pudding roll right at this minute, don’t you?
  4. Thank you for that little envelope or that fiver. Know that it will be safe in that pocket until such times as I take it out of the washing machine and shake the sodden lumps of paper around, or come across it when putting that particular cardie on in six months’ time. Whether it is the next day or six months’ time know that I will have no recollection of what that money was for. Nor who it was from. I may even spend it on Gin.
  5. Unless I have my diary in my hand and you see me writing it in immediately, please know that this will be forgotten by the time I have gone upstairs and had my lunch. Nay, by the time I have turned away from you to adore that new baby in the corner. It is not that you are not important. Nor is it that your meeting isn’t a great idea. Nor is it that I have dementia. It is just that on a Sunday I have a host of other things going on in my head and for some reason none of them stick. And don’t you know that we always have a Weekday Mass on Thursdays so I can’t come anyway?

brain is full


Lost on a Sunday morning

This morning I wasn’t taking my services. (Thank you +A) This morning I was taking the children over 7 for their preparation to receive communion. So +A said he’d take both services to save me writing a sermon or whatnot. (More likely to be whatnot.)

Sadly I woke at the same time as I would normally do if I was taking the 8.30am. So I was up and showered and dressed and made up with hours to spare. It was very weird. I even got to listen to Morning Worship and more. After that, I was completely at a loss as to what to do on a Sunday morning when you don’t have a service. In the end I was 45 minutes early. Does this mean I am a control freak?

The children, btw, were lovely and keen to learn. Nobody spat the bread or wine out on the practice run, which was a relief. In fact, they took to the sherry like ducks to water. True Episcopalians!