Sunday, many folks were absent from their normal places in church. Attendance was down in both services. Several of our long time visitors were absent. A number of our long time families were not there. All kind of thoughts churned through my head. Where were they? Was someone sick, were they on vacation? I could guess all day and never know till they tell us. DO they know their empty place in the pew leaves such an empty hole in our worshipping family? DO they know just how important they are to making our community of faith feel right? Then it hit me! Football! Sports! Yikes, I hate the fall schedule! I really miss my church family when they are absent. Over the last few weeks, I have thought often about the families who have teenagers leaving home for the first time. I wonder how it is at home for the parents, with the stillness and quietness that fills a house because an active, noisy teen is absent. No jangling phone, no messy bedroom, no rushing in or out with doors slamming, no bathroom occupied for hours on end. All the drama and excitement, gone. I don’t know if I could bear it as a parent. We have a fairly tough resilient group of parents. I think about how they might find it nice to have a quiet, neat home, but also how empty it might feel.
Some of the parents have even changed places in the church on Sunday, sitting with old friends. I see no tear-streaked faces so I guess they are doing okay, these parents! But it is so hard for me, the preacher, on just one day a week, on Sunday! I look over where all these teens sat and it is empty. In a way our circle at closing worship has been broken.
Do these youth know how much they are missed? How important they are in our church’s life. I hope they are happily enjoying this great time in their lives: making it to class on time, studying enough to not cost their parents a cent more than they should, making safe and wise choices in their free time but enjoying the most important time of their lives. I also hope they feel surrounded by the prayers of all their Aldersgate family.
Each person matters in the church. No matter how far you go away, how long your absence will be, and for whatever reason, YOU ARE MISSED! What a comforting thought, that YOU matter. The scriptures remind us that God knows the number of hairs on our head, the tiny birds of the air are each known by God. So who we are, counts. We count to the church; we count to God and no matter where we go, we still are a part of the family of God. But for your preacher’s sake, PLEASE DON”T BE GONE TOO LONG!!!!