Monday, 4 April 2016

Church of hockey wins out

Last weekend, the church of hockey won out. Canada’s other primary religion, hockey, took the game of the Easter celebration over the Christians.

You might not have noticed; churches are getting older and grayer these days. But in one small, rural church I serve, kids are present. When they aren’t there, they are missed.

In this case, the question was whether or not to hold an Easter sunrise service. Usually the kids, with help from adults, serve breakfast afterwards. It was, I am told, one of those wonderful, fun intergenerational experiences.

About a month ago, some parents realized that there were hockey playoffs on Easter Sunday morning. Some of the games might be out of town. Even games at local arenas demanded early rising, travel and time to dress.

This hadn’t happened in a while because Easter usually came later in April and hockey was finished for the year. This year, Easter was early, March 27, although not as early as possible. It hasn’t been as early as March 22, the earliest possible Easter date, since 1818 and won’t be again until 2285. On the other hand, it won’t be as late in the year as possible, April 25, until 2038.

Given that the worship schedule of the church of hockey conflicted with the worship schedule of the Christian church, the Easter morning sunrise service was in doubt.

So the decision was made. The youth would serve brunch on the Sunday before Easter, Palm Sunday, after church.

How Canadian.

This battle isn’t new, though. In 734 AD, the Venerable Bede penned these lines to Egbert, Archbishop of York: “This kind of observance and devout sanctification to God has been so long absent from nearly all the laymen of our province, through the carelessness of teachers, as to be almost foreign to it, so that those among them who are more religious do not presume to participate in the sacred mysteries unless at the Lord’s Nativity, Epiphany and Easter, though there are numerous blameless people of chaste conduct, boys and girls, young men and maidens, old men and women, who could without a grain of doubt participate in the celestial mysteries every Sunday...”

In other words, clergy (and church members) have been griping about half-empty pews for a long, long time. The Venerable Bede blamed it on teachers. In 2016 it was the church of hockey. Next year, who knows?

I refuse to get wound up over who is in church and who isn’t. Reasons can change, lives can change and situations can change. The Christian church was around long before hockey was ever imagined and will, in all probability, be around long after Canadians have found another national pastime to turn into a near-religion. As for Easter, next year it will be on April 17. Hockey should be over by then.

Rev. David Shearman is a retired United Church minister in Owen Sound and the host of Faithworks on Rogers TV - Grey County.