Today was a day for “C E C ers”. I first heard that phrase the year we lived one year in northern Illinois. That was a time when my ex was still going to church with me. It was Easter Sunday.
The church we had elected to attend held a pancake breakfast after the early service. We sat there with our six month old baby. We had only been attending the church since we had moved to town, two weeks before our son was born. An elder came to our table and sat down. He had been busy setting up folding chairs in preparation for the second service. He was tired…and grouchy.
He started complaining about the C E C ers and the extra work they caused. I stared blankly at my husband. I was wondering what in the world he could have been meaning.
Finally, curiosity got the best of me and I couldn’t resist asking this stranger what he meant. He kind of growled “Christmas and Easter Christians”. I giggled a little to myself and then became very puzzled. He certainly had a disdain for these people who show up twice a year and provide extra work for him and the other elders setting about to accommodate them.
I thought about the C E C ers when I attended the church service today. It was the third service of the day and the sanctuary was packed. I don’t know how many attended the 7:00 and 9:30 service. I’m sure for the day the total attendance at least doubled if not close to tripled. There are Sundays when I’ve sat in the sanctuary and the number of empty spaces has been far larger than the number of occupants.
Fortunately our sanctuary is larger than our congregation. With three services, the house may have been crowded, but there was no reason to set up additional chairs.
I attend church fairly regularly now, but I know there are people who consider themselves members who very seldom ever darken the door of the sanctuary. I am also certain that churches all over the world have the same situation. Many people are satisfied with showing up twice a year. Some do it out of a sense of obligation and guilt. Others do it because they figure there’s a good chance to catch up with old friends.
The attitude of that elder in Illinois continues to puzzle me. Even if members only show up twice a year, shouldn’t they be welcomed with the same friendship that we, the ones who are there most of the time, extend to each other on a weekly basis? Why, as “Christians” , grumble that they are there? Why should we feel burdened by extra work?
There was a period of twenty years of my life that I declared myself unchurched. I didn’t even show up twice a year. It was a time when I didn’t feel I’d find the answers to questions I’ve had most of my life. It was a time when I felt hypocrisy from others in the church much more strongly than acceptance.
Now that I have been back for five years, there are still Sunday mornings when I feel a struggle over whether I really wish to go or not. Some days church wins, sometimes the Sunday newspaper and bed wins.
I’m finally getting more answers to my life long quest for understanding, but it has not been easy. I feel the need to go more strongly most the time than I feel to stay home. I identify with the C E C ers, however. It’s not easy to be committed to going to church on a regular basis. There are weeks now when I often ask myself how committed I actually am. Some people only feel the pull twice a year.
But that doesn’t give the leaders of the church the right to grumble. These people should be welcomed and invited in. One does not make friends with thorns. It is much better to offer a rose. If congregations truly wish to offer Christian love, they should do it every week to everyone. So if you are a C E C er, I hope you felt welcome today and did not happen to meet the grinch who steals Christmas…or Easter. Namaste. Attic Annie