I must wait until March 9 before timepieces in my part of the hemisphere are pushed forward one hour, signaling the return of daylight saving time. Until then, I would like to propose an additional clock shift:
Church saving time.
I'm calling on all religious leaders to, collectively on their weekly observances, delay the start of services by at least 10 minutes. If successful, this could become the norm. My family and millions of other stragglers would consider it a blessing.
What is it about church that brings our tardiness to the forefront? Some of the greatest biblical events occurred on time, didn't they? Or did they? When Noah, his wife, sons and assorted livestock entered the ark, the rains had already begun falling. Nowhere in Genesis could I find Noah screaming to his family members, "Get a move on!" -- a phrase I repeatedly yell from the base of the stairs each Sunday morning, but one I know cannot be heard over the din of hair dryers.
When the shepherds arrived in Bethlehem after following the star, the baby Jesus had already been born. There seemed no urgency to arrive early -- before the blessed even t-- and snag some choice seats in the stable. This same mode of thinking occurs with my daughters, who are perfectly content to stomp down the aisle during the opening hymn (if not later) and plop themselves in the first or second pew, rows everyone knows are designated for the hard of hearing and the chronically late.
I have concluded that my family could keep the pope waiting for a private audience. We've come perilously close to turning Easter Sunday into Easter Monday. During a recent trip to Washington, D.C., we decided to squeeze church into an itinerary that already included staring at priceless works of art, historical documents and statues of seemingly everyone who passed through the capital in the late 1700s. "Statue maker" was definitely a lucrative and much-needed profession back then, much like "Genius Bar employee" is today.
We chose, as our place and time of worship, the 9 a.m. service at Washington National Cathedral, the granddaddy of churches in the nation's capital. "Sometimes President Obama worships there," I told my wife and daughters. "Let's arrive early so we can see him."
If one considers 9:13 a.m. "early," then yes, we were on time. Naturally we sat in the front, seats that required walking approximately two football fields past disapproving glares from punctual parishioners as they recited Scripture. We never did see the president. Ironically, all the Google images I viewed of Obama visiting the cathedral show him sitting in the very first row, so maybe he, too, is among the spiritually time-challenged.
Which brings us back to my idea of delaying the start of services. Let's make them like theatre performances. Has anyone ever been to a Broadway play or musical that began precisely at the anointed start time? No, there's always a little wiggle room in there. So, Catholics, how about you start Midnight Mass at 12:10 a.m.? Jews, delay the morning Minyan a few minutes. Whatever the faith -- Mormon, Greek Orthodox, Muslim, Zen Buddhist -- please remember the laggards.
But, also like theater, lets prevent the REALLY tardy individuals from entering houses of the holy until there's a suitable break in the action. My Methodist church includes a "joys and concerns" segment approximately 15 minutes into the service at which time members announce blissful events or ask that those less fortunate be included in prayer. The persistently late could be subtly humiliated as they joined the proceedings.
"Yes, it is a JOY to see that the Schwems finally made it," I can hear my minister saying. "We were getting very CONCERNED about you."
Church leaders, I hope you agree to my proposal. If so, my family will be in our pew at 11:12 a.m. on an upcoming Sunday.
Or maybe 11:22 in case we're running late.
(Greg Schwem is a corporate stand-up comedian and author of "Text Me If You're Breathing: Observations, Frustrations and Life Lessons From a Low-Tech Dad," available at http://amzn.to/schwem. Visit Greg on the web at http://www.gregschwem.com.)
(c) 2013 GREG SCHWEM. DISTRIBUTED BY TRIBUNE CONTENT AGENCY, LLC