BOSTON - (ENI) The Massachusetts Council of Churches has expressed deep concern that sports events and other public activities on Sunday mornings are deterring Christians, particularly children, from attending church.
The council, which represents 15 Protestant denominations in the state of Massachusetts, has officially called on public officials and others who arrange public events to "avoid imposing impediments to religious worship."
In a "Statement of Concern" sent to the 1,675 congregations of its 15 member churches last month, the council declares that Sunday "is the Day of the Lord, a Day of Reverence . . . To be told to re-schedule our worship, as has occurred sometimes, is insulting."
The statement urges people to "make a commitment to reclaim Sunday as a Sabbath time set apart" and encourages them to contact school committees, sports officials and civic leaders in a bid to ensure that a solution is found to the problem.
"This issue causes considerable conflict within families when children are placed in the position of having to choose between church or recreational activities," said Diane Kessler, executive director of the council.
"Some clergy groups have tried to address the problem in their individual communities, but our board of directors felt it was time to take a broader approach and raise this dilemma as a topic for discussion and education across the state. Our objective is to get people in communities to work together in a positive manner on this problem."
"Sports consciousness is the rage," said the Rev. Jordan Dickinson, pastor of the First Congregational Church in the town of Whitman.
"A lot of the scheduling conflicts are based on the explosion of sports and the lack of [sports] fields."
The Rev. Scott MacLean, pastor of the First Congregational Church in the town of Stoughton, said: "We think kids deserve the right to play and pray, but when the soccer league starts in the spring, our Sunday school attendance is cut in half."
The council said that sport was not the only event which produced difficulties for Sunday morning worship others included marathons, charity walks and parades.
"Scheduling charity walks for Sunday morning has struck me as odd, because it would seem that the folks who are most likely to be concerned about charity are in church then," Mr. MacLean said.
The Rev. William Wolkovich, parish priest at the Catholic parish of St. George, in Norwood, supported the council's views. "Parents are torn because the kids are sometimes told they will be put off the team if they miss a game . . . As clergy it is our position that it is very unfair to make youngsters make a choice between church and participating in these activities."
The Rev. John Maheras, priest in charge of the Greek Orthodox parish of the Nativity of the Virgin Mary, in Cohasset, said: "Sunday morning is probably the last bastion of time that is left to the family to get together."
Clergy in Massachusetts have discussed the possibility of helping to pay for special lighting for athletic fields so that sports events can be held in the evenings.
"If the broader community becomes sensitized to this issue, we're sure people can work together to come up with all sorts of inventive solutions," Ms. Kessler said.
"We hope that in a time when many community leaders are talking about the need for family values, we can make people aware that attending Sunday morning services provides a major source of moral education for children."
Copyright © 1998 - Republished by permission of:
Ecumenical News International,
PO Box 2100, 150 route de Ferney, CH - 1211 Geneva 2
Tel: (+41-22) 791 6087/6515 Fax: (+41-22) 798 1346
The Statement of Concern was approved by the council on December 9th, 1997 and subsequently released to the public. Copies can be obtained by contacting:
MASSACHUSETTS COUNCIL OF CHURCHES
14 Beacon Street
Boston, MA. 02108
The Rev. Diane C. Kessler, Executive Director
You can view a copy of the Statement of Concern online.
CARDINAL JOHN J. O'CONNOR criticizes Little League Sunday sports.
CARDINAL JOHN J. O'CONNOR criticizes Good Friday Pro sports.
Sports vs. Church online at Religion Today.
Sabbath Soccer at World on the Web.
The Lord's Day Alliance of the United States