So a few weeks ago I was tasked with finding out which churches in this Episcopal Area of the Diocese would be participating in the Back to Church Sunday Programme. This a programme where churches ask their parishioners to invite someone to come to church with them on a particular Sunday (this year: September 27). My task was to find out which churches would be participating and how many pre-printed invitations they would need.
So I dutifully printed off a contact list of some 60 parishes that might participated and started calling them. Mostly I got answering machines--which made for some interesting listening. Most were up to date, but some still had Holy Week information or obviously hadn't been changed since shortly after Christmas ("...and we wish you a happy New Year"). The tone of voice on some messages was extremely off-putting while others made me genuinely want to try their worship. It's a good exercise to remind oneself how important the voicemail message on a church answering machine can be!
I was able to get a hold of most churches within the first week or so. They called me back or I got them on the first try. No problem.
But it's been several weeks now and there are still 13 parishes that haven't called me back. In the mean time I've left two more messages (for a total of three messages in three weeks). You might think that the culprits would be really busy priests without support staff--or bad answering machines. But, in fact, some of the worst offenders are some of the largest churches in the Diocese! I'm leaving messages with real people, but the priests aren't calling me back! I don't think it's a personal thing--I hardly know these folks. Rather, I think it's a good indication of just how focused churches can become on their own little patch of garden. They really can't be bothered talking about anything else (even if it has the potential to benefit their parish). It's all quite fascinating and somewhat annoying! This would be unacceptable in some large corporation--but we expect far less professionalism in the church, I'm afraid!