Rumor and a Challenge

While driving in Arlington, Virginia, we passed a building with a sign for the Church on the outside. What, we wondered, was this office building?

Talking with folks the other day, they explained that this is the building for the Singles’ Wards. Space is so tight in Northern Virginia near DC that leaders were prompted to consider how the unique needs of singles allowed them to think out of the box. Or in this case, think in the box, or in the shape of a boxy office building.

Parking is insanely constrained, so congregations are not able to meet simultaneously. The building in Alexandria on King Street holds its first set of meetings starting at 8a, then a second set of meetings starting at 11:30a, and the third and final set of meetings starting at 3p.

If the Church were stagnant or in decline, this wouldn’t be a problem. But the Church is growing steadily. And there’s no place to go.

When I heard the rumor that Conference might bring a realignment from a 3 hour worship format to a 2 hour format, I originally dismissed this as bunk. Apparently the Church had flirted with eliminating Sunday School in the past, but then didn’t change the overarching format. As my husband noted, when the possibility was discussed, Sunday School is the only meeting where men and women study together.

But as I contemplate the space challenges some congregations are facing due to growth, the idea of a shortened block begins to make sense.

At any rate, I am super excited for Conference next week. I have no idea what will happen, but I suspect more will happen than “mere” words of pastoral comfort and exhortation.

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About Meg Stout

Meg Stout has been an active member of the Church of Jesus Christ (of Latter-day Saints) for decades. She lives in the DC area with her husband, Bryan, and several daughters. She is an engineer by vocation and a writer by avocation. Meg is the author of Reluctant Polygamist, laying out the possibility that Joseph taught the acceptability of plural marriage but may have privately defied the commandment for love of his wife, Emma.

12 thoughts on “Rumor and a Challenge

  1. Possibly leaders will shorten the lesson segments to 20 minutes and ‘business’ to no more than 10 minutes, allowing for 2 hours total with 1hour for Sacrament Meeting. I hope they really lean hard and leaders to cut down on opening statements and announcements and use digital communications more. Look how they have effectively halved the number of general priesthood and Relief Society meetings.

  2. Another possibility is to have ph/rs and Sunday School alternate weeks, Or have ph/rs the first Sunday only and SS the rest of the monh.

  3. If there is to be a switch away from the familiar three hour format, I’m sure the die is already cast. Similarly, I’m sure the alternatives will have been tried out.

  4. I’d be sad about what it reflects, even if it was the right decision based on the current circumstances.

    Less time together in church. So we can do what? Unless it’s have linger longers every week… do we need more tv or phone time?

    We all know we’re filling our lives with busyness while at the same time everything is getting more complex and time demanding (taxes, insurance, customer service lines, travel, tech support, etc). So much admin and bureaucratic procedural overhead sucks up our time. Mixed with everyone becoming more of a content consumer, that consumption takes even more time.

    What’s left for church? Somehow I wish it could move the other way, but let’s face it. As a matter of fact, church comes last in so many things that places demands on our time.

  5. Hi Ted,

    Please review the comment policy. I’ll not delete your comment, but someone else may.

    Also, you clearly don’t attend my congregation. Worship is awesome and inspiring where I attend. Therefore it isn’t a fault of the overarching format. Ergo, it is more likely a function of the individuals in the congregations where you formed your opinion. Or a function of the natterers talking about stuff without actually attending a congregation.

  6. I do not want to see the 3 hour block shortened, though I could imagine it happening. We lived with a 2 1/2 hour meeting block in Arizona for several years when we lived in a fast growing area with a major shortage of buildings.

    The 2 1/2 hour block let you squeeze 5 wards into a building and led to jokes that tithing had been reduced to 7.5% (not really). This worked for us, but it wasn’t ideal. The lesson in priesthood was often reduced to 5 minutes due to opening exercises and long announcements. As far as I could tell, almost everyone was relieved when we got more buildings and switched back to a full 3 hours.

  7. I agree with Meg. My flyover-country ward is fantastic, and I’ve never yet bemoaned a Sunday. Sure, some of the hours get a little uneven, but something happens every Sunday that I can carry with me as an inspiration. Every. Single. Sunday.

  8. Nah. The 3 hour block is not going to change. Nor would I want it to. Three hours is a good amount of time to keep me committed to attending. I think that holds true for most members. Outside of sacrament mtg, however any time is shortened, that possibly cuts out a considerable chunk of callings. (Cute alliteration, eh?)

    Couldn’t disagree with Ted more. The spirituality I glean from church is not dependent on others, but largely depends on what I personally get out of it in my preparation and focus. I basically go to church to work and serve. Being in a branch, I am busy during the entire block. For instance, just last weekend I led music in ASL in sac meeting, interpreted for a deaf-blind woman in sunday school, taught the combined RS/PH class, had a series of meetings afterwards, dropped a member off, then drove an hour home–my normal Sunday commute.

  9. Tiger, That’s mostly true. But you are probably one of the energy suppliers at church. Most (I suppose) are energy neutral, and some are net consumers of others’ energy.

    Blessed is the ward in a situation of a positive net amount of energy, where energy suppliers outnumber, or “out-weigh” at least, the energy takers. IE, more lifter-uppers than dragger-downers.

    Blessed is the person who has the faith and the devotion to righteousness to get his/her energy from the Holy Ghost who _quickens_ (energizes).

    Maybe Ted is in a ward with a less than critical mass of lifter-uppers/energy-suppliers. And maybe he is a net neutral, or relies on other people’s energy (ie, hasn’t yet achieved energy-supplier status), and therefore isn’t getting enough energy.

    I don’t mean to be an energy vampire, but sometimes I do need someone to smile and just greet me, even a head nod will usually do. And I try to do likewise, greet people and smile.

    Attitudes and spirit are contagious.

  10. Bookslinger,

    What a generous way of thinking of the situation.

    I think we all have times when we “need someone to smile and just greet” us.

    Then there are times when we also need to realize that it isn’t about us. An example of this from my life was following my separation from my first husband. Folks in my congregation were not smiling, and I interpreted this as having something to do with things they might have heard about me. I had the luxury of having a friend in a different congregation, so I attended with her for a few weeks. And I realized that these people in the other congregation were not smiling either. But since they didn’t know me, I was able to see that their lack of smiling was not because of me, but because they were struggling with their own, internal concerns.

    I returned to my home congregation and was able to see that people were fatigued and burdened by their own concerns, so their lack of smiles had nothing to do with me and my problems. In select cases, I was later able to know that they knew nothing of my situation, so their lack of encouragement in my direction had nothing to do with me.

    I’m a bit less sympathetic to Ted’s assertion, as he is not merely suggesting that Church is uninspiring for him, but is asserting that Church is uninspiring across the board for all individuals. There are energy vampires, perhaps, but Ted appears to be an energy killer, whether by virtue of his own active denial of the good energy at Church or his willingness to deny Church value to the larger internet audience.

  11. Meg, to go along with your/our point…

    One of my handicapped clients (legally blind, survivor of spinal cancer, home-bound except for doctor appointments) taught me a great lesaon:

    It’s always approproate to fake a smile and fake cheerdulness.

    Sure, a real smile is better than a fake smile. But a fake smile is better than a scowl (or resting-bitch-face, which is a popular meme, and somewhat of a reality these days.)

    At church, we all are ambassadors, along the lines of the bishop, the full time missionaries, and airline flight attendants. Everyone expects those people to smile and greet people whether they are having a good day or not.

    (I once caught a group of flight attendants practicing/exercising their smiles while waiting for their first flight of the day. I first thought, “how phony!”, but then realized it was their job to smile.)

    The drawback is that everyone knows the score with bishops(/ministers/priests/pastors) and full time missionaries. We all know it’s their job, their assignment, to smile and welcome.

    The magic or the warm fuzzy feeling doesn’t happen until _someone else_ at church smiles and welcomes you.

    Whether from the bishop or a rank-and-file-self-appointed greeter, a fake smile is better than nothing. Everyone is an ambassador, and has capacity to influence.

    One of my favorite lines to use to greet people at church these days is the Jewish “Happy Sabbath!” (“Gut Shabbos!”) that I saw my grandfather and others use when he took me to temple/synagogue during visits to my grandparents. That is very appropriate, but unusual enough in an LDS setting to get people’s attention. If/when the effect of that wears off, maybe I’ll try “Praise the Lord!”

  12. Well, well…. Obviously, more change was in the air, but I didn’t think it would go in that direction. It is going to be interesting to see how this change affects our Sabbaths. Maybe for Bookslinger it means there will be less vampires and more smilers at church!

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