This would be the season where local the fall fairs begin. I remember growing up, it used to start with the Barrie Fair in late August. Followed by the Orillia Fair in early September, the Oro World’s World’s fair in the middle of September, the Coldwater Fair in later September, and the Elmvale fair on Thanksgiving long weekend. As a kid, Oro Fair was the fair I both attended and participated in. Oro was the township I lived in.
The four schools within Oro township competed in a school parade. The only way a student could get out of it was perhaps being sick. And believe me, he or she had to be very sick. It was nice to get a day off of school, however. For me, I couldn’t wait for that parade to get over. It was so boring. I just had to pretend I was really enjoying myself marching. Just for 10 minutes. From raiding my piggy bank, I had 50 cents jiggling around in my pocket. I couldn’t wait to get to the midway. When I look at them now I can see how tiny those midways were. But as a kid who hadn’t experienced anything else, it seemed something much bigger than Canada’s Wonderland. With that money 50 years ago I could get a ride on a Ferris wheel, buy a cotton candy and maybe try to win one of those big stuffed animals. Or maybe spend it all on three rides. Decisions can be so complicated.
I am so grateful for the era that I grew up in. it took so little to entertain my generation. Farm life was busy. And any spare time I remember making mud pies. Or going out in the field to throw a baseball in the air and catch it coming down. I would do that for hours. I remember catching crickets and putting them in a box so I could observe, watch and study them. Grasshoppers were a little trickier as they could jump out of the box. But with crickets, they couldn’t get out. In a couple minutes I’d let the crickets go. Not because I was bored. But because they were not happy in that box, and were trying so hard to climb out, but couldn’t. So I set them free. I have always had a fascination with the insect kingdom, and have wondered if circumstances had of been different in my teenage years if I would have become an entomologist. These years I just enjoy taking photography with my old 14 year old Fuji point and shoot camera.
I’m a nature lover. Not just with insects, but with all God’s creation. How could a person ever be bored in nature. Every time I am out in nature there are new discoveries. The other day I came across one of those stick bugs. They are so hard to find because they look like twigs. Haven’t seen one in years. There are times when I will go running in Copeland Forest and see families hiking. Sometimes instead of enjoying nature all around them, I will see the kids with their faces staring into their devices. Which makes me very sad. I love reading all about nature. Around the time our church was founded 170 years ago a guy by the name of Ralph Waldo Emerson (whose writings and quotes I love) wrote an essay called “Nature”. In the essay he declares “How excited we would be if stars came out once every thousand years. As that day approached, we would gather our friends together and stay up all night. But stars come out every night, so we close our drapes and go to bed”.
Church was a way of life in my home. But also most homes in the community. The church was one place that connected our communities. Fifty years ago, stores, movie theaters, sports activities, and even many gas stations were all closed. Roads were quiet. And people took a day off from busy lives to have a day of rest and meet together to worship God. As a young child there were many things about God and the Bible I didn’t understand. But I had some very caring Sunday School teachers through whom I learned so much from. They didn’t go to Bible school or anything like that. They were just ordinary farm wives who knew and loved God. And served God by teaching God’s Word. There came a time when I realized I was that cricket in that box. Who was trying to get out. That’s when I realized that with believing that Jesus dying on the cross for my sins I would be set free.
The messages of most churches really hasn’t changed. But a tech-driven society has changed so much. And church has become boring to many. The instant gratification from our smartphones and tablets don’t really allow a person to become bored. A very interesting BBC article titled, “Boredom” Why Boredom is Bad…And Good for You“, it mentions that “Boredom is good because it is good for creativity. Without the capacity for boredom, then, we humans may have never achieved our artistic and technological heights”. It seems that any time a child does become bored, technology in one form or the other is offered as soon as there is inactivity. Weekends are filled with activities going here and there to keep children busy and entertained. Such a contrast to my generation.
Webster’s Dictionary defines Boredom as, “The state of being weary and restless through lack of interest”. But the concept of boredom is highly subjective. I am an ultrarunner. Ten years ago running 50 kilometers or more without stopping would be the last thing on my radar. But now it seems it is all I talk about. Some people out of being nice will try to look interested in my running. But when their eyes gloss over I can tell they are bored. My wife is a avid knitter. Once home from her job in the post office she relaxes and unwinds by knitting for hours. She might even spend more time knitting than I spend running. I’ll ask her what project she is working on. She’ll tell me but won’t go into any more details. Because she knows I won’t want to know anything more.
Church is quite different from running or knitting. Though my wife does head up a knitting group that started through the church. And I’ve thought about starting a running club through the church. Things of the world revolve around earthly, temporal things. When God’s Word is communicated in church it is about eternal, spiritual things. The destiny of people’s souls are at stake, not to mention many of the fundamental issues of life. How God’s Word is communicated is important to me. As a lay preacher I just can’t treat God and the Bible casually like as in running or knitting. It diminishes the greatness of God and the solemnity of spiritual issues. God is far greater.
Today, as society continues to advance technologically, and as people change in terms of priorities and lifestyles, church attendance everywhere is dropping. I keep hearing how the St. Andrews Presbyterian church at Hillsdale used to be packed on a Sunday. And two doors up there was also a United Church that was also full. Across the highway there was a Bible chapel church also where people attended. The United and Bible chapel churches have been closed for some time. With the Presbyterian church as the last church remaining in Hillsdale. It was established in 1851, which was 170 years ago. It is by far the oldest institution in Hillsdale, founded 16 years even before there was a post office established in the village.
I have been lay pastor at the St. Andrews Presbyterian Church for just over a decade. The congregation is very dear to my heart. Several of our congregation have gone on to Heaven during my 10 years there. It was an honour to equip them spiritually those last years on earth, and prepare them for their eternal home. When God called them home to heaven they were ready. In a community of over 1,000 people, how I would love to see our church filled like it used to be. But I’ve had to accept the fact that people will not be interested in church until God’s Spirit creates a spiritual thirst within themselves. The solution is not to change church to appeal to their current level of interest. The solution is to pray that God will change their hearts. Which I have been doing for years. When people’s hearts are changed, they no longer will be bored with church. Inviting them to church is good, but we know in advance, that unless God does a work in their hearts, they will not likely continue. This goes for any church. Pastor G.N. Barkman from Sharper Iron quotes this, “We know that faith comes by hearing the Word of God, and that’s something we dare not trifle with. That is why we must not alter the means God has appointed to resurrect the dead. Changing church, so that spiritually dead people like it, robs them of the only thing that can change their hearts. Conversion is a work of God’s Spirit, and we must utilize the means God has appointed as we patiently wait upon Him to change hearts”.
COVID has been extremely hard on us as a church at St. Andrews, Hillsdale. Except for 2 short periods, we have been closed for the majority of the last 17 months. Our plan is to reopen this Sunday on September 5th at 10:30 am using current government regulations (in step 3 of the Ontario reopening capacity we will be limited to permit physical distancing of 2 metres). Two weeks later we will be having our 170th anniversary. With the required distancing we would be able to accommodate around 40 people upstairs. This will be followed by cake and ice cream outdoors, weather permitting. Following that there will be a meeting upstairs to engage in conversation about the future of St. Andrews. We are currently at a crossroads in the life of the church. Decisions made will determine the future of St. Andrews Presbyterian Church in Hillsdale.
P.S. Read Psalm 119:97-104 to learn how much God’s Word should thrill (not bore) us. Written from the Message Translation.
Oh, how I love all you’ve revealed;
I reverently ponder it all the day long.
Your commands give me an edge on my enemies;
they never become obsolete.
I’ve even become smarter than my teachers
since I’ve pondered and absorbed your counsel.
I’ve become wiser than the wise old sages
simply by doing what you tell me.
I watch my step, avoiding the ditches and ruts of evil
so I can spend all my time keeping your Word.
I never make detours from the route you laid out;
you gave me such good directions.
Your words are so choice, so tasty;
I prefer them to the best home cooking.
With your instruction, I understand life;
that’s why I hate false propaganda.