Why We Might Cancel, BUT We Will Never Close / by Chris Pollock

Rev. Chris Pollock

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If you didn’t yet already know it, I can be a little cynical about Oklahoma winter weather. My cynicism came from a place. A location. A spot. It came from being raised in Mason City, Iowa.

Mason City is in Northern Iowa just 30 minutes south of the Minnesota boarder. Snowstorms in Iowa were great days – especially if there was ice. I had a 1982 Chevrolet Chevette that went “zero to sixty sometimes.” We would do donuts in the school parking lots. If I would plow that thing into a snowdrift, it was light enough to push out myself, no matter how deep it was buried.

When I was in the sixth grade, we had a snowstorm. This wasn’t just the typical blowing snow, bundle up, snowstorm. This was an IOWA storm. Drifts were over my head and the wind was howling. On that day the wind chill dropped to an amazing 66 degrees BELOW zero!

What was nuts was they didn’t close school. In fact, all of the schools up north have indoor swimming pools and I remember swimming in gym class that day. Needless to say, my claim to fame is that I walked around school with a wet head. Makes for a great (though unbelievable) story.

When it comes to Oklahoma winters, then, my cynicism shines.

So, be ready. This might sound like one of your typical, old man, “When-I-was-a boy-we-didn’t-have-clothes, and-we-had-to-walk-to-school-in-the-snow-in-just-our-underwear, and-had-to-make-our-own-books, and-ate-dirt-for-lunch, and-we-liked-it” kind of story.

Rather, it is a story of confession. I am working on my cynicism, and God is helping me. My confession is that I am cynical. Sometimes I get pessimistic about Oklahoma Weather Reporters and their winter drama. In this, it is clear that I need grace.

But, this most recent storm – and the effects of it – has concerned me.

The Oklahoma storms have left a lot of people without power. Many have been in crashes on the road. Those who can should stay inside and not travel. While I grew up in Iowa, I recognize that this part of the country is not equipped like that part of the country is. The roads aren’t cleared quickly. People aren’t used to driving in this weather. Weather like this can be downright dangerous.

I know there are church-goers that go out simply because the pastor says the church is open. Don’t slip and slide, or fish-tale to church, simply to meet a legalistic obligation.

Don’t go out if you can’t navigate the weather.

With the storm Sunday it was good for people to be discerning, to cuddle up by fires, watch TV, and take a (MUCH NEEDED) break.

However…

It is important to think about others in the midst of these storms – to be in prayer for them. People can’t bundle up because having coats designed for thirty below isn’t standard. There are others who do not have anywhere to go when their power goes out. They don’t have a warm place. Their homes are not safe and there is no place to retreat. Frankly, there are people who don’t have homes at all!

There are people who need grace, especially in the middle of the storm.

Churches and pastors have a responsibility.

So, I must say that I was disappointed to hear that in the middle of the storm, when people are cold, nearly 400 churches in Oklahoma City closed. They didn’t just cancel, they CLOSED . It is my opinion – my humble opinion – that churches and their pastors have a responsibility. We have the responsibility to provide out of what we have, especially when the storms leave people with need.

Churches and pastors have more to offer than “music and preaching.” We also offer warm places, prayer, a place and an opportunity to confess sins, the reading of scripture, and the Eucharist. In these things we offer grace.

And, when all of the churches in the city close, those who are in need have no place to go!

While we may have to cancel our 5:00 pm service because the band can’t get there or it is too dangerous for the child-care workers, we will ALWAYS be open ! One of our pastors will be there, offering a warm place for those in need. We will be there at that 5:00 hour, providing a place for people to confess their sins, to offer sanctuary and hospitality, a word, a warm place, the Eucharist, and prayer. In other words, we want to offer grace.

The storm was rough on Sunday, so churches closed.

However, that evening 11,000 people were still able weather the storm, the ice, the wind, the snow, and the rain to gather at the Chesapeake Energy Arena to watch the Thunder. Other cynics might think this may have been an act of worship…

I believe, however, they certainly had to have been people visiting from Iowa.