The Rev. Barbara Threet
This evening (Saturday, January 18), I really wish I could foretell the future! Well, I wish I could at least know exactly how much snow we’re really going to get overnight, and whether it will be easy to shovel in the morning or back-breaking, and how much will be blowing around and diminishing visibility tomorrow morning. At times a crystal ball would be great: I wish we could know how badly a hurricane will damage an area and when it will turn aside at the last minute, so agencies could know where to send resources, who really needs to evacuate and who can actually stay safely at home. I wished, at times, that I could simply know whether I’m coming down with the flu or just a cold, and how long it will last! And as for carefully planning a trip to surprise a friend (who turned out to have planned a surprise trip to visit me on the same weekend) – well, to quote the immortal Robert Burns, “the best-laid plans of mice and men go oft awry” (or “gang aft agley”, to be technical).
Once again, I am reminded of how little control any of us actually has over life, and how often we have a choice between acting without sufficient information or refusing to act at all, which is in itself another form of action. If you campaign really passionately for a specific candidate, or advocate unflinchingly for a particular cause, will your efforts pay off, or will they fall short of what you want to see? And is the effort worth it, even though things may not turn out as you’d hoped? This surgery usually works well, but that’s no guarantee it will for you, and you need to decide whether to have it or not. Or it’s time to replace your car, and the model you’re drawn to has an excellent service record, but you also know someone who got a lemon with this model. How to decide?
How can we make wise decisions when so often the information we most need (how will the various options play out) is pretty much unknowable? So often, no matter how carefully we consider all the options, there are be ripples we hadn’t anticipated and couldn’t possibly have predicted.
But back to cancelling services, since now, on Monday morning, I know the snow fall was nowhere near as heavy as was being predicted Saturday evening, and we certainly could have met on Sunday. What we can find out is how people feel about cancelling services, especially the time table people prefer for making that decision. I see options for three general policies:
- We could decide never to cancel services – whoever shows up, shows up. That also means we’d need to pay a musician or guest speaker who shows up, even if there are too few people for a service.
- We could decide about cancelling services only on Sunday morning, when we have a good sense of what conditions for the next few hours will be. We’d need to decide early enough so we could notify any speaker coming from a distance as well as our musician, or we’d need to pay them if they arrived anyhow. On potluck days, a Sunday morning cancellation means some people would be stuck with dishes they’d planned to bring.
- We could make decisions about cancelling services on Saturday evening if the forecast for Sunday morning indicates dangerous road conditions. This gives plenty of time to notify our musician and any guest speaker as well as the congregation, and it means those who need to shovel out in order to get to church can relax. However, the cancellation may turn out to have been unnecessary if the weather isn’t as bad as predicted.
Inquiring minds want to know: which would you choose? Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. We can’t control the weather, but we can at least control a little piece of how we respond to it!
I trust that each of you was safe and warm on Sunday morning, wherever you were!
Shalom and Salaam,