sacrament-meeting-297011-print

A locally planned and designed shortened meeting block experiment for the Boston Massachusetts Stake was cancelled this week.

Stake leadership had proposed a 2 hour and 15 minute meeting block where each hour’s meeting would be shortened to 45 minutes and services would end with Sacrament Meeting. They also planned to reduce firesides, choir practices or other meetings to allow members to focus on partaking of the sacrament and spending time with families.

Although the 2-month trial was to begin in January, the proposal received extra attention when it was posted on John Dehlin’s Mormon Stories podcast page. Later on Monday, November 23 LDS church spokesperson Dale Jones issued a statement saying this program was cancelled as reported in The Standard Examiner.

Jones said “After recognizing it was not within Church guidelines, local Church leadership in the Boston Massachusetts Stake decided to drop plans to shorten the standard Sunday worship meeting schedule. The two-month experiment set to begin in the stake in January was planned locally with good intentions to better observe the Sabbath Day.”

The consolidated 3 hour meeting block we have today was introduced in March 1980. Although remote areas were already on a combined schedule, most of the church attended many longer meetings spread throughout the week. As a child I remember my father attending priesthood meeting in the morning and then going back for sacrament meeting and with the whole family. We then attended primary during the week and my mom went back again for Relief Society.

I used to live in the Boston Massachusetts Stake and was really thrilled for my friends there. What a great thing to try out. My friends who are still there were also really excited to give it a try. This proposed schedule raises some interesting hypotheticals. If the 3 hour block was such an improvement many years ago, would a 2 hour and 15 minute block with reduced extra meetings be better for today’s church? Maybe yes and maybe no.

Pro:

  • More time with family is always a good thing.
  • Reducing the number of extra meetings is always a good thing
  • Having a shorter sacrament meeting more focused on the ordinance of the sacrament really points us to the reason our presence at church on Sundays.
  • A shorter meeting time makes our services more accessible to those investigating our faith. In the US and many other parts of the world a 1 hour service and a 1 hour Sunday School is the norm. Don’t get me wrong–doing something because other people do it is not a reason to do anything. There are a lot of reasons to NOT join our faith, but our meeting schedule shouldn’t be one of them.

Con:

  • Priesthood meetings often suffer from the double announcement tax. Opening exercises followed by getting started in individual quorums. Sometimes it is hard enough to carve out 20 minutes for a lesson. I guess this schedule would result in priesthood micro lessons unless leadership could be more efficient. Wait. Maybe this is a pro based on some of the lessons I’ve had. I guess they haven’t read Al’s post on the subject.
  • Primary. I can’t even imagine wrangling all those kids and teaching all those songs in LESS time than they have now. My nursery-aged kid would also rebel if she had less time with her excellent nursery leaders.
  • Wards that have a tradition of excellent teaching and discussion would suffer. Sometimes discussions and shared learning is so good it is difficult to stop.

Although this idea turned out to be much ado about nothing it got me thinking about effectively using the time I have at church. Am I making the sacrament a worshipful experience? Am I prepared for my sunday school class with thoughts on how the text impacted my life and helped me feel the spirit? Am I striving to support the men of my priesthood quorum even when preparation is low?

However long our meetings are, I hope I can work on making the most of them.