No Less Serviceable
There may be various seasons in your life when, despite your desires, you will not be able to participate in Sunday church activities. When I was in first grade, my parents moved from a rental home to the unfinished basement of a home my father was building. We moved all day Saturday and the Sunday clothes were nowhere to be found on Sunday morning. It was my first experience with having a righteous desire to be in Church on Sunday and not finding myself there.
There have been occasional illnesses that have left me home on Sunday and a time or two when traveling was essential and Church unavailable on Sunday. But, my next prolonged absence from church came when our youngest son contracted leukemia and as his primary caregiver, I was instructed to keep myself in voluntary isolation to minimize the chances of passing infectious diseases to him. This voluntary isolation lasted more than six months and kept me away from Church on Sundays.
Now I have a son who has made a righteous career decision involving emergency medicine that will keep him from regular church attendance as he serves in the Cleveland, Ohio county hospital during his residency.
There are policeman, fireman, and other medical professionals in my neighborhood who volunteer to give up their Sundays to protect, fight, and heal. There are other circumstances that can keep you home time to time, too. So, what do you do to keep yourself serviceable when you are absent on Sundays?
You may find this a rather humorous idea, but holding your own sacrament, Sunday School, and Relief Society/Priesthood meetings can enhance your spirituality. It has the advantage of skipping the more protracted, less-exciting parts of a meeting and instead focusing on what will increase your serviceability to the Lord.
For myself, I chose to play a hymn on my recorder while Evan was in the isolation unit at the San Francisco hospital as that instrument could be sterilized successfully and transported to his “clean” room in my box of tools and treasures. I also had a hymnbook sterilized, plus the Relief Society manual, an inexpensive set of scriptures, and several months’ worth of Ensign and Children’s Friend magazines.
My sacrament meeting consisted of a opening hymn played by myself (I do not sing well solo). Then an opening prayer (by me). The sacrament meeting talks were General Conference talks that I read aloud (more like the real thing than reading them silently and more profoundly impressed upon my heart through the spoken word). Then a closing hymn played on the recorder and a closing prayer.
Gratefully, San Francisco area missionaries were assigned to come and give me the sacrament each week. This happened at random times during the day and so I choose to have a consistently timed sacrament meeting with Evan. When the Elders came, I left the sterilized environment to partake of the sacrament in a quiet room nearby and then returned to Evan’s side. The Elders were not allowed to enter his room and he wasn’t allowed to have any food that wasn’t pre-sterilized and so had to forego this part of our sacrament meetings.
When the hospital season was over, I still have many months at home when Evan and I could not attend Church. I continued to value my private sacrament meetings, but now included Primary activities for Evan as he could freely move about the rooms in our home, whereas he had previously been confined to a crib in the hospital and was often too ill to care much about “Mama’s church.”
Again, these meetings didn’t last long, weren’t the least boring, and fulfilled a deep need I had to worship the Lord and serve Him while increasing my doctrinal knowledge. It also helped Evan see that Sunday was a special and different day, even at home. One way I reinforced this concept with him was to have a special pair of socks he wore just on Sundays (with his pajamas) to remind both of us that we could keep this day holy.
Time has passed and another son faces the challenges of being away from Church on Sunday. As I contemplate this second son’s righteous career decision, I can see additional ways that he and others like him can be “no less serviceable” though they will not consistently be in Church on Sundays.
This internet activity wasn’t available when Evan was ill, but I see it as a valuable Sunday activity for those who will miss Church. There is easy access (sometimes right at work), it fulfills a need to participate (howbeit from afar) in Church-type activities and can be started and stopped at will. This might allow anyone who is away from Church on Sunday but has some free time to be involved.
Diligent Visiting Teaching and Home Teaching
Although visiting others can happen on any day of the week, those who have missed Church through no fault of their own, can be magnified by choosing to home teach and/or visiting teach during any free time they might have on Sunday. The visited sisters, brethren, and families could then share the events of the day with their home or visiting teacher who missed out on Church.
In addition, this would allow the absent member to fellowship with the Saints in the best time and way possible, considering the restraints of their Sunday employment and/or other reasons for being gone from Church.
In turn, I can see home and visiting teaching families inviting the member who was not at Church to their home for an evening meal, proactively helping fellowship and share about the day’s activities.
Some work environments might not allow sacred music to be played in the workplace on Sunday, but commute time is a choosing time. Choosing to listen to uplifting spiritual music, General Conference talks, and the scriptures during commute time on Sunday will keep that day more holy and bring sustenance to the soul.
When attending Church on Sunday is not possible, when a work schedule precludes involvement with Sunday meetings, or when isolation is imposed for various reasons, Sunday can still be holy and members can still be serviceable. It is just a more creative kind of worship.
When this happens to you, choose to “be serviceable” to the Lord around your circumstances. If someone you know will be absent, choose to bring “Church” to him or her as best as you can. Together we can all be more useful even as we support those who cannot join us in Church on Sundays, though they would like to!
See Book of Mormon, Alma 48:19 “And his brethren were not less serviceable unto the people.” Photos used with permission of sxc.hu and lendscap.