What meetings does your ward or branch typically hold when Christmas in on a Sunday? Do you have all three hours of meetings, or just sacrament meeting? Or is there some other arrangement?
I realize that there are several reasons this might be a silly question. First, this won’t be an issue until the end of 2011, when Christmas actually will fall on a Sunday. Second, Christmas falls on a Sunday only every seven years or so, give or take leap year pushing it around. Third, given that it’s such a rare occurrence, it doesn’t make a lot of sense to talk about what a ward “typically” does. Likely half a ward’s membership and most if not all of the leadership turns over between occurrences of Christmas on a Sunday, so it’s not even really the same ward from one occurrence to the next.
The reason I ask the question, though, is that I was wondering if arguments for reducing church to one hour when Christmas falls on a Sunday might not be extended and apply similarly when Christmas is merely near a Sunday. This occurred to me because I was asked to substitute in my ward’s severely short-handed primary on the 26th. In the hustle and bustle of all the holiday preparations, I didn’t get to prepare the lesson until Christmas Day, and that wasn’t really how I wanted to spend time on that day.
So what are the arguments for a one-hour block when Christmas falls on a Sunday? I don’t know that I’ve ever heard them actually stated, but I’m guessing they’re something like these: First, on Christmas, people should be able to spend time with their families rather than in Sunday School. Second, enough people will be out of town on Christmas that it will be difficult to find enough teachers for all the classes. When most people are in town, teaching benefits from a kind of economy of scale, where you don’t have to have as many teachers as there are students. When people leave, though, this arrangement makes things more difficult, as a few students missing from a class don’t reduce the number of teachers needed (unless there are so many missing that classes can be combined), but each missing teacher requires a substitute. The result is that a larger fraction of the ward has to be teaching when lots of people are out of town than on more usual Sundays. Third, as I was reminded of when preparing my lesson, a lot of work related to the second and third hours occurs on days before Sunday, so holding all three hours requires preparation that competes with holiday preparation and celebration, and most importantly, with extra-precious family holiday time.
How do these arguments apply when Christmas is merely near a Sunday rather than being on a Sunday? Well, the first argument is weaker. People still probably want to be with their families around Christmas, but it doesn’t seem like as big a deal to take them away for the full three hour block on December 22nd or 27th (say) compared to on Christmas Day. But the second and third arguments are, I think, just as strong. Lots of people will be out of town on Sundays around Christmas, and it will be difficult to staff all the teaching positions. And preparation for Sunday will still interfere with celebration and family holiday time.
What are the arguments for having the full three hours when Christmas is on (or around) Sunday? I doubt that people would argue that there’s an extra need for the second and third hours at these times, especially considering that we rarely have lessons related at all to Christmas. Rather, the best argument seems to me to be that church shouldn’t be cut down to one hour without having a really good reason, and saving holiday celebration or family time, and avoiding staffing difficulties, just aren’t good enough reasons. Or, thinking along similar lines, if we can cut church to one hour for a Sunday around Christmas, why not for Easter? Or Independence Day?
What are your experiences with church when Christmas is on a Sunday? What arguments am I missing, either for or against reducing church to one hour in such cases? What do you think about reducing church on Sundays around Christmas?