Snow Sundays

January 21, 2007 | 30 comments
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Melissa and I can’t be the only LDS parents out there whose first reaction upon hearing that church has been cancelled due to bad weather is “Oh crap–what are we going to do with the kids all day?!?”

This is the second Sunday in a row that church has been cancelled because of winter weather. Last week, we made it through sacrament meeting (we’re now on the early schedule, with meetings beginning at 9am) before the stake presidency sent word that, with a possibly massive ice storm bearing down on us from the east, the rest of our church meetings and all other meetings that day would be cancelled. As it turned out, we got about an inch of sleet, to add to the two inches we’d received the day before–no ice. Kind of a pain to drive on, and difficult to shovel, but hardly the sort of storm that makes leaving the house dangerous. We thought the results of last week would make the stake presidency less likely to try to anticipate the weather. Nope–we received word that our church this morning was cancelled at 3pm yesterday, at which point we had received, on top of the sleet which hadn’t yet entirely melted away, an additional four or five inches of snow since it had started that morning. True, it was a genuine snowstorm…but again, not something that seemed to me an awesome deterent to getting to church, especially if home teachers and the Aaronic priesthood are out doing their jobs, shoveling parking lots and offering rides. But hey, it’s not my decision, and admittedly, the stake presidency has to think about rural congregations and people who have to travel a greater distance than we. So anyway, here we are, 9:15 in the morning, everyone awake, about six inches of snow on the ground, and a whole day to fill.

What do you do on snow Sundays, or it’s equivalent wherever you happen to live? Do you throw “Sunday rules” (if you have any, regarding dress or appropriate reading or playing or listening material) out the window, or do you attempt to maintain your Sabbath schedule as much as possible? We already usually have a “Sunday Spiritual Lesson” at home after church; today we’ll expand it, perhaps have a minature meeting with the sacrament and testimonies. Maybe we’ll use the blessings of a high-speed internet connection to watch a devotional on the church or BYU’s website. Likely the Sunday dress code won’t survive all day, especially since the snow outside looks great for building a snowman. It’s no big deal, really. It’s just that we kind of like our family’s “day of rest” rules, we like the way the sacrament and Primary and all the rest help us mark a different pattern for this one day a week. Having in essence two Saturdays in a row in replacement of church isn’t very appealing. As much as I may sometimes grumble about our meetings, I suspect we’re probably going to be missing them by the end of the day.

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30 Responses to Snow Sundays

  1. Ken on January 21, 2007 at 1:06 pm

    Boy its cold outside today down here in Southern Arizona, but , oh well, guess I’ll go to church anyway.

  2. Norbert on January 21, 2007 at 2:22 pm

    I can’t imagine what would have to happen for church to be cancelled here in Helsinki . . . school is only cancelled when the temperature gets below -30 C.

    But when I was nine, there were wildfires in the hills close by (in SoCal), and the bishop got up in the middle of Sacrament and announced that church was cancelled so they could go protect the homes of some of the members and their neighbors. Every summer after, if there was a wiff of smoke in the air, even a local barbeque, it got my hopes up . . . but it never happened again.

  3. jose on January 21, 2007 at 2:27 pm

    Cool, now you can surf the blogernacle all day and make a post like this one. Actually last week our church was canceled for the freezing rain thing. I spent the morning plodding around having intentions of doing an equivalent church service for the kids. But time slipped by (I was amazed at how fast time goes by without church) and we never did.

  4. Jonathan Green on January 21, 2007 at 4:52 pm

    We had two hurricane Sundays in Charleston. They were both leftover hurricanes that had already beaten down on Florida, not the ones direct off the Atlantic that the locals got concerned about. Mostly we sat at home and entertained each other over instant food and perishable items from the refrigerator while the power was out. Some friends, though, recent arrivals from Long Island, missed the call and were halfway to church before they heard on the radio that emergency vehicles were being recalled because it was no longer safe for them to be out.

  5. Ardis Parshall on January 21, 2007 at 5:38 pm

    This morning my not-quite-open eyes misread your post title as “SLOW Sundays,” in contrast to, I suppose, Fast Sundays. Betcha it HAS been slow, though, hasn’t it?

  6. random me on January 21, 2007 at 6:12 pm

    yeah, it was pretty chilly here. my kids were bundled up with sweaters and tights and asked for jackets. i think it was about 60?

    we used to have heat days at school, growing up. we had them at church a time or two, but it was because our ward was so geographically large that people had to drive 2.5 hours in the heat to get to church.

  7. Day on January 21, 2007 at 8:01 pm

    I\’ve always thought it is interesting how what is appropriate for Sunday depends so much on family culture. I came from a family that required dresses all day Sunday, absolutely no TV, radio, doing of homework, or practically all outdoor activities. My husband came from a go shopping on occasion, go waterskiing if you\’re on vacation, and definitely watch the Super Bowl family. So we had to work out what we wanted our own little family to do. I ex-ed the dresses all day rule first–they just get ruined. We started out with no TV whatsoever, but we\’ve relaxed this in favor of shows we can justify as somewhat improving (Veggie Tales–Living Scriptures is too expensive and hard to get). I\’ve decided that I want my children to enjoy Sundays, not dread them as I used to, so I try to save some books that we read just for Sundays.
    I think it may be hard on our children when the get older as one set of cousins will be doing everything they aren\’t allowed to do, and the other set of grandparents may not approve what they\’re doing. But I\’m glad we\’ve set the rules now, while our children are young.

  8. Wacky Hermit on January 21, 2007 at 8:29 pm

    We had church cancelled when it snowed about a foot and a half in one night. We could get up early enough to shovel out our own driveways, but there was no way to drive out of the driveways until the ploughs came by, and even after that there was work to do shoveling the end-of-the-driveway pile they leave.

    After that we had trouble with the mailman, who refused to deliver our mail unless we cleared all snow out of a four-foot radius of our mailbox, which was now nearly buried under what the plows left behind.

  9. old49erfan on January 21, 2007 at 8:44 pm

    It’s actually a pretty simple solution. Pop up some popcorn, get out the soft drinks, and watch the NFL playoffs. :)

  10. JA Benson on January 21, 2007 at 9:06 pm

    Make memories. Church snow days come few and far between. Build snow people, make a big fire in the fire place, roast marshmallows, drink hot cocoa, watch movies, etc… Give your family the gift of quality time.

  11. jjohnsen on January 21, 2007 at 9:26 pm

    We’d do the same thing we did the week we forgot about Stake conference. Take the day off and go for ice cream.

  12. Paula on January 21, 2007 at 10:28 pm

    Gosh– how old are your kids? I’d enjoy every minute of having a long cozy day with them, instead of worrying about missing two days out of church out of the 900 or so you will take them to over 18 years. It’s a bit late now, but go for JA Benson’s advice. They grow up way too fast!

  13. Mark IV on January 21, 2007 at 10:58 pm

    RAF, here’s my report, just up I-35 from you. Our ward cancelled meetings as well.

    8-noon – shovel snow and chip ice off driveway and sidwalks. Help neighbors do the same.

    noon-4:00p.m. – Sit in recliner and groan. Drink hot cider and eat ibuprofen.

  14. Russell Arben Fox on January 21, 2007 at 11:18 pm

    Paula, JA, others,

    You’re all right, of course–a Sunday with the children without church is a Sunday with three (or more) extra hours to do things together, to make memories and have fun. And we did. We watched movies, we built snowmen, we ate chocolate fondue. But it’s just that…well, what can I say? Melissa and I probably fall closer to Day’s family growing up along the continuum she described than to her husband’s family. I don’t think we’re that strict, but we really like Sunday being a different kind of day, with different rules and expectations. With church cancelled, our primary tool for defining that difference gets taken away from us. And I guess we’re both obsessive-compulsive enough to dislike having our days mixed-up like that. I hope our children don’t grow up hating us for it.

    Mark IV,

    Where do you live? How far north of Wichita are you?

  15. Kevin Barney on January 21, 2007 at 11:30 pm

    I’m with Paula. Church snow days are very rare here in Illinois, but they do happen once in a blue moon. To me they’re just like school snow days; something to be greeted with great joy.

    (Of course, I’m far less pious about the Sabbath than most LDS. I had a great time today [after Church] sitting by the fire while it snowed outside, watching the Bears beat the Saints to earn a trip to the Super Bowl.)

  16. Coffinberry on January 22, 2007 at 12:02 am

    The last time we had a snow-day for church, we asked the bishop for permission to have sacrament meeting at home (I mean, we were all dressed and almost heading out the door when the phone rang – again – and again – and again – from our home teacher, visiting teacher, and a member of the bishopric). It helped that we had an Elder, a Priest, a Teacher, a Deacon, and a little girl in Junior Primary in the house. I played the music, my daughter led; the boys prepared, blessed, and passed the sacrament, and my husband gave a talk.

    Then we went ahead with the usual family stuff (I think it was all-afternoon monopoly).

  17. Russell Arben Fox on January 22, 2007 at 12:33 am

    “The last time we had a snow-day for church, we asked the bishop for permission to have sacrament meeting at home…”

    We did too. We’ve passed the sacrament on our own as a family before, and it’s been a good experience. Unfortunately, this time around I asked our bishop exactly what the rules are for doing so, and he said that we couldn’t have our own sacrament when church is cancelled simply for reasons of weather. I shouldn’t have asked (one of those “it’s easier to get forgiveness than permission sort of thing”). I was of a mind to to ahead and perform the ordinance anyway, but I already disregard enough local rules that my wife didn’t care for me to ignore this one also. So, we just had a little testimony meeting instead.

  18. Erica Merrell on January 22, 2007 at 1:37 am

    I do remember one snow Sunday growing up. We spent most of the day digging out and it was rather a fun day. We all have fond memories of that day.

    It is hard to make Sundays a different sort of day when you can’t go to church, especially when it’s sprung on you and you’ve hardly ever done it before. I understand the difficulties.

    I’ve wondered why families aren’t allowed to have the sacrament on their own without permission. It would certainly be nice in cases like this, or when you’re travelling, etc. to be able to have a small sacrament meeting with one’s own family without having to get specific authorization to perform the ordinance. But I can see good reasons for requiring authorization for ordinances in general and there are probably more good reasons for the restriction on blessing the sacrament than I’m thinking of.

    It just seems that there could be a real place for smaller meetings in homes for some people, whether it’s because of the weather, or poor health, or even inactivity. Or maybe just for us introverts. :)

  19. Mark IV on January 22, 2007 at 10:27 am

    Russell, I live in KC, T.O.T.A.L. Zion. A couple of the young people from my ward attend Friends U. I should add that two years ago, we almost had church cancelled on account of a tornado. A latecomer to sacrament meeting noticed the clouds overhead begin to rotate counter-clockwise, and she sent a note to the bishop on the stand. Just then the alarm sirens sounded, and the bishop interrupted the speaker in mid-sentence. We evacuated the chapel and went into the hallways where nobody would be in danger of falling objects or flying glass. After 15 minutes the sirens stiopped and we all went to Sunday School or Primary. Just another day in tornado alley.

    And, for what it’s worth, I read your review of What’s the Matter With Kansas and I believe you are dead-on accurate. The author produced such a caricacture of his hometown that I hardly recognized it. I could write a more accurate description of the surface of Jupiter.

  20. Costanza on January 22, 2007 at 11:49 am

    Russell,
    I’m just curious if the bishop elaborated on the rule that you couldn’t have the sacrament at home if church was cancelled due to weather. It almost sounds like they have a list somewhere “Weather: No; chapel destroyed by giant termites: yes; Bird Flu epidemic: maybe.” I’m just curious about the rationale.

  21. Paula on January 22, 2007 at 12:41 pm

    RAF, are you in Colorado? My friend who lives in Rush also had the second week of cancelled church, and her bishop told everyone to do the sacrament if they had men in home who could do it.

  22. endlessnegotiation on January 22, 2007 at 12:49 pm

    I live in the stake just to the east of you Russell and we still had church as scheduled both Sundays. My family attended last week but we blew off this week. Having recently moved from MSP to the Wichita area I’ve been shocked at the local government’s ineptitude at clearing the roads. Seems the only roads they care about here are the ones that let the tractor-trailers pass through town. In MSP the snow is generally cleared before dawn– and that includes most of the side streets. What’s even more galling is that the government can’t seem to get it done despite my annual state/local tax bill nearly doubling when I moved to Kansas.

    Yesterday we started out by all working together to make a huge, elaborate breakfast– a rarity in our household. After cleaning up the mess together we sat down and watched a few conference talks that we still have saved on the TIVO. Then we went out and played in the snow. We live on a golf course with a couple of good hills for sledding so we packed up some hot cocoa in the thermos and headed for the hills. There were a number of other families there and we had a great time. At the end of the day as we were walking home I noticed that my 8-year-old son was moving with a somewhat awkward gait. I asked him if he was injured but he assured me he was okay. We continued but his awkward gait remained. I asked again and he got a somewhat embarrassed look on his face as he quietly told me that he had peed his pants while we were sledding. He explained that he needed to go about halfway through the afternoon but he was having such a good time and he didn’t want to spoil the fun so he chose to just relieve himself in his suit. We laughed together and I promised not to tell his mother or his sister (he told them himself later in the evening and we all laughed again). We capped the evening off by watching both NFL championship games sans commercials (thanks so much TIVO). Had we spent the entire morning at Church the day would have been wasted. After all, how many eight year old boys would voluntarily pee in their pants so they could stay at church. I’ve never met one.

  23. Russell Arben Fox on January 22, 2007 at 1:13 pm

    Mark IV,

    Thanks for your kind words about my What’s the Matter With Kansas? (Which one are you talking about, by the way?) I’m actually using it in a History of Kansas class I’m teaching this semester at Friends; as much as I disagree with it, he puts a lot of important issues on the table. Though when it comes to these sorts of books, I think Brian Mann’s Welcome to the Heartland is far superior.

    Constanza,

    The way our bishop read them to me (straight out of the handbook, or so he claimed), Melchezidek priesthood holders could bless and administer the sacrament in their homes when distance or illness prevents one from attending church, and other a couple of other circumstances, but inclement weather wasn’t one of them. I can’t imagine what the rationale is there. It’s not like the sacrament is a recorded ordinance. I suppose some people might abuse the privilege by deciding they never need go to church anymore, but that would seem to logically suggest a different kind of rule than a specific list of where and when outside-the-church-building sacraments are allowed.

    Paula,

    Yes, I’ve known bishops and stake presidents who have said that; in fact, I’d kind of assumed that such was the norm. Maybe I’m wrong there.

    Endless Negotiation,

    You know, Melissa had suspected that the Derby stake didn’t cancel church; she’ll be interested to hear she was correct. Honestly, teh cancellation wasn’t necessary; even the unplowed side roads weren’t that bad. Well, every stake presidency has its own way of doing things, I guess. Sounds like you guys had a good Sunday. (Which golf course did you go to? The best sledding on our side of town is either Sedgwick County Park or right off Kellog, behind the Palace movie theater.) It’s not what we would have done–as I said before, we’re admittedly a bit more restrictive in our Sunday activities than many. But we did make some snow people (a man, a woman, and a baby princess) and a snow fort in the back yard. It turned out to be a good day (though tiring for Melissa and I).

  24. endlessnegotiation on January 22, 2007 at 4:20 pm

    Russell:

    I hesitate to tell you which golf course. You’ve made your views about the wealthy quite explicit and Wichita (and especially the Mormon community) is a small town. Given that there are only two Mormon families in our development guessing my identity would be quite easy. That’s a little piece of information I want to hold onto for now until I’ve had the opportunity to convince you that rich people (which no doubt is how you would classify me and my family) aren’t necessarily the scourge of the earth. I’ve heard about the spot behind the Palace. Given the dearth of good hills here (this being Kansas and all) I understand most people have to resort to man-made hills (like the golf course and the Palace). A lot of the people I know who don’t have access to a golf course find lightly used overpasses and sled down the embankments there.

    Chalk me up as one who thinks Sunday attendance is mostly unnecessary and wishes we’d have more official snow days. I wish we’d even have rain days, heat days, and leaves are falling days as well. I think watching the Conference talks with the children and discussing them in real time (one of the beauties of TIVO) provided my children with as much, if not more, spiritual growth than if they had sat through 3 hours of Church. We attend primarily because it’s a commandment and because my wife has a calling to teach. If Church attendance was “optional” we’d only be there once or twice a month.

  25. Geoff B on January 22, 2007 at 4:47 pm

    RAF, we missed about four Sundays out of eight during hurricane season in Miami a year and a half ago (August, September, October — remember when there seemed to be a hurricane every week or so?).

    Anyway, we watched a lot of movies and actually did exercises at home running up and down the stairs. You can’t go out during hurricane Sundays, so you get cabin fever. There were long stretches of true, true boredom, but we mostly have good memories and made the best of it.

  26. jose on January 22, 2007 at 6:56 pm

    endlessnegotion

    “If Church attendance was “optional” we’d only be there once or twice a month.”

    That is still considered an active member for statistical purposes. I’m glad that church isn’t optional (at least as a principle and culturally) otherwise I probably wouldn’t attend which would lead to other downhill behaviors.

  27. Mark B. on January 22, 2007 at 8:01 pm

    I’ve wondered why families aren’t allowed to have the sacrament on their own without permission. It would certainly be nice in cases like this, or when you’re travelling, etc. to be able to have a small sacrament meeting with one’s own family without having to get specific authorization to perform the ordinance. But I can see good reasons for requiring authorization for ordinances in general and there are probably more good reasons for the restriction on blessing the sacrament than I’m thinking of.

    The bishop holds the keys of the Aaronic Priesthood in the ward, and the sacrament is administered under that authority. Since the scriptural injunction is for the church to meet together often to partake of the sacrament, I don’t think that the bishop is (or should be) free to grant general dispensations to families to have the sacrament at home or elsewhere.

  28. Russell Arben Fox on January 23, 2007 at 9:32 am

    “The bishop holds the keys of the Aaronic Priesthood in the ward, and the sacrament is administered under that authority. Since the scriptural injunction is for the church to meet together often to partake of the sacrament, I don’t think that the bishop is (or should be) free to grant general dispensations to families to have the sacrament at home or elsewhere.”

    I was out with the missionaries yesterday, and they told me that their mission president told those missionaries in areas where church had been cancelled to get together with their districts and have the sacrament in their apartments. So apparently, there are some exceptions in regards to who has the authority to say what in this matter.

  29. Russell Arben Fox on January 23, 2007 at 10:11 am

    Endless Negotiation,

    “I hesitate to tell you which golf course….That’s a little piece of information I want to hold onto for now until I’ve had the opportunity to convince you that rich people (which no doubt is how you would classify me and my family) aren’t necessarily the scourge of the earth.”

    Ah, c’mon, you know you shouldn’t take seriously anything I blog about here! It’s all show business. (Besides, my dad has memberships to probably a half-dozen private golf courses, and I still love him, despite his wicked capitalist ways.)

    “Chalk me up as one who thinks Sunday attendance is mostly unnecessary and wishes we’d have more official snow days. I wish we’d even have rain days, heat days, and leaves are falling days as well.”

    I can appreciate the sentiment; I used to feel the same way myself. And actually, as I linked to in the original post, I still tend to think that a lot of what we do in our meetings is irrelevant and much more stressful than it needs be. Where my feelings have really changed is in regards to the sacrament; I just feel that if I and my children aren’t meeting with our fellow saints to receive that ordinance on a regular basis, then something important is lost. (Which is why I continue to struggle with attending stake or regional conferences: there is no sacrament, just…talks and songs. Which makes a “meeting,” not a worship service.)

    I also have to admit that having kids has changed our thinking; I suppose we see it as important to “ritualize” them into the idea that there are and should be regular, expected Sunday behaviors. But I don’t doubt for a minute that one can teach one’s children many important principles and build a lot of strong, spiritual ties just as well without such rituals; that’s just us.

  30. Sarah on January 23, 2007 at 4:36 pm

    We were all jealous when we came out of the building on Sunday afternoon and found that the 1pm ward had had church canceled. I’d never seen church (or any church-sponsored activity) canceled for weather before; the only car accident I’ve ever been in happened on a snowy rural road after a no-the-weather-isn’t-bad-enough-you-slacker uncanceled church activity.

    Honestly, on balance, I think it’d be easier for us to be “spiritual” at home if we didn’t have to do the church thing. In years when we have to go at 9am church means everyone gets up earlier than they’d like, we all take a nap when we get home, and the rest of Sunday doesn’t feel like Sunday. In years when we go to 1pm church, everyone is bored stiff by the time we leave for church, we all come back extremely hungry, and it’s almost always a grouchy “I have things to do this week and not enough time to do them” kind of time afterwards. 11am church usually means we’re fairly spiritual afterwards, not starving, and not exhausted. Those are the only years I spend preparing my Primary lessons on a Sunday — 9am and 1pm years it usually happens on Wednesday or Thursday.

    However, everyone in the family is intensely introverted, and the social aspects of church really wipe us out in all but the best of circumstances. It’s actually better for me when I have Primary stuff to do; wrangling 7-year-olds during Sharing Time isn’t as draining as trying to be sociable in Relief Society. So whatever obsessive tendencies that would lead to me hating a change in schedule (I’d be much more upset with a last-minute change than a day-ahead-of-time change) are canceled by the “thank goodness I don’t have to interact with acquaintances” relief. I also get more satisfaction from writing to my letters-only VT assignee than from visiting, and I like my YSA calling best when I’m at home getting ready for interesting activities, than actually attending said activities. And I take General Conference as a socially-appropriate opportunity to not have to talk to anyone for upwards of 12 hours at a stretch.

    (note: from a safety standpoint, I was sort of surprised they didn’t call off our meetings, too. I suspect it’s a matter of the hour: if we’d been scheduled to come in at noon, they would have had time to call us all off. By noon, though, there was enough on the ground that it would have been more dangerous to send everyone away right then, rather than wait for the roads to be cleared again. About 3 inches fell between the time we left home and the time we returned; the roads were very scary on the way in but clear on the way back, but we couldn’t make it up our driveway in a 4-wheel-drive car once we got to the house. Most of the 9am people seemed to hang around the building for a while after their meetings let out — I know our ward had guys out shoveling for at least 40 minutes before we started, and I’m sure theirs did some afterwards, in the absence of the 1pm ward.)