July 22, 2013
Attendance is a big deal at schools these days.
Federal and state money hinge in part on attendance rates, and a school's rating as effective or excellent heavily weights attendance.
It seems there's a high value in just showing up.
Jesus thought so too in yesterday's scripture reading with Mary and Martha. I suspect I would be Martha in the situation, frustrated that I'm doing all the work while Mary hangs out with Jesus. Feeding all these guys, finding places for them to sleep for the night, putting the toilet lid back down (Ok, 21st century projection here). And there's Mary, sitting at the feet of Jesus, hanging on his every word.
I bet Martha was grumbling a bit under her breath. I would be.
But there's a lesson here: sometimes just by showing up, we can see Jesus.
Attendance matters in our churches too. Each year, congregations have to report, among other statistics, their average Sunday attendance. There's a lot of sturm and drang about whether this is a fair reflection of the vitality of a congregation. And to be certain, health of a church requires a holistic view, taking into consideration a whole range of indicators. But I think looking at attendance has value. Is attendance steady? Declining? Increasing? How does it compare to itself? What are the trends over the past twenty years? Is this ebb a part of the natural life cycle of the congregation or an anomaly?
I'm not advocating that every church needs to be 500-plus on a Sunday, but we know for each of our locales the number that feels full and right. If we average 80 on a Sunday, and we drop to 50, we feel it. It changes the tone and tenor of a service.
I think we should put a higher priority on showing up, that we push attendance as an important part of our life together.
Because we know this: Showing up matters. It gives us a chance to be part of a community, to build relationships, to hear the gospel, and receive the Eucharist.
Showing up gives us a chance to see Jesus.