Where Will You Get the Time?

Dear Time Takers:

Well, the fourth annual “All Together Under the Son” ecumenical worship service is now in the books. It has been my privilege to have participated in all of them. This year lacked commemorative T-shirts, but I don’t think we really missed them.

Years ago, I was part of a clergy group planning an ecumenical worship service on the south side of Chicago. There were about 30 congregations who had agreed to participate; they represented nearly every Christian theological, ethnic, racial and socioeconomic slice of our community pie. Of course, those groups who felt they were the only ones destined for heaven declined to participate; they feared rubbing liturgy with the reprobate would risk the appearance of validating heresy. I have to confess, I didn’t miss them any more than I missed T-shirts.

Getting nearly three dozen congregations to arrive at the same time in the same place for the same purpose was a cumbersome task. Balancing that many clergy egos required far too many phone calls and appeasing pieces of correspondence (at the time, not everyone had email). Two hours into a planning committee meeting, one of my colleagues checked his watch and said he had to leave. As he got up from the table he remarked, “This is the problem with ecumenism, it takes too much damned time!” Every time I’m involved in one of these community-wide worship events, I am reminded of his words.

Of course, at the end of the event there were high fives all around and an earnest pledge to make it an annual event. And while we did gather several times over the years, the size of the community choir diminished, some congregations simply forgot, enthusiasm waned and what started with great anticipation devolved into a yearly obligation. Once something is consigned to a file folder of tradition, it seems to lose its edge.

My colleague was right: things worth doing require us to prioritize time. We have packed our calendars full with things we thought important at the time and, like hoarders with one more bag of stuff, we are unshakably loyal to the judgment of our past selves, clinging to routines which may or may not hold present value.

There are, you might say, two kinds of time: sacred time and damned time. The only way we get to the sacred is to pull moments from the damned, but that act of discernment requires time; precious or profane, it’s time we have to take.

In those moments when we swap out our routine for something unusual, we are only risking the damned for the sake of the hallowed. We’ll do it again—this ecumenical worship thing—turns out we have plenty of damned time to spare.

Taking time to muse, I remain,

With Love,
Jonathan Krogh
Your Pastor