What’s your Sunday routine?
What time do you get up, what time do you go to bed? Who are the people you usually see or call during the day? What do you like to eat?
Those are the questions the New York Times asks someone every week.
One of my favorite columns in the Sunday Times is called the “Sunday Routine.” Each week it features someone who lives in New York City, and in the column that person tells us, in his or her own words, how Sunday usually goes.
Sunday for most New Yorkers is a family day. It’s spent with children and, where possible, with extended family. And that means Sunday is often planned around meals, either meals cooked at home or meals enjoyed at a favorite restaurant.
Sunday is also often – at least for the people featured – a day of routines. Frequently, they’ll say, “I like to do this, and then I like to do that, and of course we always end up doing this other thing.” Each week they look forward to the same thing, the same restaurant, the same park, even the same food.
What I almost never see is the mention of a faith community – specifically, church. Today’s profile (find it here) featured a 52-year-old woman who sings for the Metropolitan Opera in New York. She mentions that she grew up in a “Christian Baptist” home, so she said she tries to spend a little “quiet time” each Sunday morning which makes her feel “peaceful” the rest of the day. No other details, just that.
But her experience is rare. For the most part – and this must be why I find the column so fascinating – church is just not a part of the lives of these people. Their Sundays sound happy, relaxing, restorative – and utterly without something I would recognize as a faith component.
As you might imagine, I grew up much differently. I went to church on Sundays throughout my childhod – not just once, but twice each Sunday. I went to Sunday school too. And occasionally, though not as often as my parents wanted, I went to youth group on Sunday nights. I thought that was the norm. And it was – at least among the small social group in which I was raised.
I read somewhere that one reason church attendance is in such steep decline is not that people are less spiritually-inclined today than they used to be, but that the cultural expectations for going to church have fallen away. People who may not have gone to church in the 1950s but did so because of cultural expectations simply do not go today.
Even though retirement is a long way off (I hope), I’ve started to imagine what retirement will look like, and one of the first questions I ask myself is, What will Sunday morning look like? Once I no longer have to preach and lead worship, what will I do with myself? Will I find a church home and sit quietly in the pews? Will I stay home and watch the Sunday morning news programs that I’ve never been able to see? (Not likely.) Will I go for long walks through interesting neighborhoods, stopping for latte and lunch, as the people do who are featured each week in the New York Times?
The truth is, I will probably do what I’ve always done. I’ll go to bed early on Saturday night and get up early on Sunday morning. I’ll go to church and then come home. I’ll take a nap. And not because it’s a habit, though by now it surely is. I’ll do all of that, when I no longer get paid to do it, because that’s who I am, that’s who I have become. My place in the world is to be part of a faith community – praying, listening for God’s word to me, weeping with those who weep, laughing with those who laugh.
I don’t long to be free of church. I long to be part of it for the rest of my life.