Parson to Person: “Where were you? I missed you!” June 18, 2021

Since we will start having Sunday services at church starting in July, and probably more and more of us will start seeing each other in person (and, I assume, we will begin to have some visitors in person too), I thought it might be helpful for us to think about what our physical presence may mean for UCN’s future. Not just in the first few weeks, when we will probably be pretty excited to see each other, but even after the “novelty” wears off.

So here’s something I read several years ago–but rediscovered recently. It seems that the editor of a UU church newsletter (back in the days when newsletters were printed only on paper) had an inch or two of blank space on one of the pages he was laying out. So he typed in something like:

Where were you? I went to church hoping to see you,

               but you weren’t there. Is something wrong? I missed you.

He didn’t sign a name to it–it was meant to be “food for thought.” But a number of people thought it was a personal message from the newsletter editor, and they began wondering if they were the one he was referring to. Some of them approached him and told him they were sorry to have let him down, or they didn’t realize they were that important to him, etc.

The minister of the UU church where this happened (the Rev. Gordon Gibson, now retired) said: “This is probably the most powerful piece that has ever been published in the newsletter of a church I have served.”

For those who think of church as only a place to “fulfill their needs” for spiritual or intellectual stimulation, the Sunday service will seem more or less like a consumer commodity. Thus they may attend only when they think they’ll get something out of the “product” that day. But what if your presence (either virtual or in-person) is part of what makes UCN a church worth attending? What if there are UCN members and friends who will be asking, “Where were you? I went to church hoping to see you, but you weren’t there”? And what if you are the one they miss?

Like I said, food for thought.

peace and unrest,