I served a congregation in Woodstock, Vermont back in the mid-1990s. I learned about winter weather. And a LOT about snow.
It might have been the first time we had a big snow that I decided to not preach the sermon that I had planned, but rather to offer the few people who arrived — we were expecting upwards of a foot of snow after all — some readings, a few songs, and a brief reflection, all offered while I was sitting on the steps leading up to the chancel.
Getting to church wasn’t any real problem for me. I lived in the parsonage which was directly next door to the church. It was a 25-foot commute, so no big deal.
On Sunday morning the snow had stopped. When I looked outside around 8:00 a.m., I was surprised that the guy who mowed for us during the summers and plowed for us during the winters had already cleared all our sidewalks, the driveway into my garage, and plowed out an area in the grassy back lawn where people could park. When I walked across to the church not much later, I discovered two of our elders had already driven in from their home on a steep hill on the other side of town. Coffee was brewing to be sure everyone could have something warm to drink when they arrived.
The sanctuary wasn’t as full as it might have been by the time the service started, but it was far from empty, nor was it the small handful I expected. I went with what I had planned even so, sitting on the steps and offering a collections of readings.
Halfway through the hour, we heard someone ascend the steps that led up to the large wooden porch that stretched along the front of the wooden building. After a moments, loud booms resonated through the sanctuary as the late arrivals stomped their feet to get extra snow off before coming in. The entire gathered company turned to watch the couple who had skied over enter somewhat sheepishly. After the service they admitted they had hoped to arrive in time for the sermon and then get on with their skiing.
Longtime members laughed with me about my mistaken understanding of how Vermonters handled snow. I didn’t make that mistake again.
The Northwest is very different from the Northeast in our snow response. With all the forecasts predicting a big snowfall, and knowing that there isn’t a kindly man with a plow and snowblower to clear out around TUUC this weekend, and knowing that there won’t be lovely elders who have 70 plus years of navigating large snowfalls arriving to make coffee, we won’t be having a service this Sunday in our building.
Instead, we bid you stay safe and warm at home, make cocoa, do a jigsaw puzzle, read a book, binge on something wonderful and restorative, as you enjoy the enforced day off. Sled and ski as you can too, and we’ll see you all after it’s all been cleared away and melted.