Every profession has its own lexicon of esoteric language, mine included. When it comes to the language of religion, there is a decided lack of agreement on what some of the language means.
There are a couple of terms, however, that get used twice a year and everyone in my business knows them. Some use the term “C and E Christians,” others use the term “Chreatsters.”
You know who they are.
They are the folks that make it to church roughly twice a year, generally at Christmas and Easter.
For some, the term “Chreaster” is pejorative. I once knew a pastor who took fiendish delight in introducing himself to people he saw twice a year for several years, as if he had never seen them before. But I have a very soft place in my heart for Chrieasters, because that essentially is my story.
When I was young, we went to church on Christmas and Easter. Christmas Eve wasn’t so bad. It was a way to break the anticipatory tension and it became part of the build up to the big day.
But Easter was grueling. For one thing, we had to get up early in the morning; sunrise for Pete’s sake. And then there was “church clothes.” One wonders why we even had them for a twice-a-year occasion. Each year the white shirt was certain to be about a half an inch small in the neck with a collar filled with enough starch to use it as a paint scraper. The collar was held in full choke position by a clip on bow tie.
A tweed jacket that caused every part of my body to itch topped off the entire torturous outfit and guaranteed that my mother would have to tell me to stop fidgeting at least three times during the service, which was almost always hot and tediously long.
The preacher seemed determined to tell us everything he knew because we only came twice a year. It didn’t seem like a fair trade-off for a hollow chocolate bunny and some jellybeans.
So here’s the point: never underestimate the power of a tiny seed to grow into something, and never be reluctant to cast seeds.
Something happened along the way that turned a fidgety 7-year-old Chreaster in an itchy sport coat and Buster Brown shoes into a full-time church guy.
There was no decisive moment, no bolt of lightning or voice from above. It took a lot of years, but
sometimes transformation takes a while. I daresay it is still happening.
So there will be no disparaging remarks about Chreasters or C and E Christians coming from me. Come to think of it, I should think the Chreasters would be our guests of honor at such a festival.
Jesus saved his most biting criticisms for those who were part of the inner circle, while offering comfort and places of honor to those who were mostly on the outside.
My hope is that I can legitimately speak for my colleagues here in the Foothills and say that Chreasters are most welcome in this place.
My hope is that you will feel most welcome coming twice a year; that you will feel as welcome on those two occasions as you would if you came weekly, and especially if you don’t feel like wearing a clip-on bow tie and starched collar.
Who knows where that might lead? I have seen very great things grow from tiny seeds.
Chreasters are welcome here, heck, we’ll even serve you breakfast.
• Steve Hammer is the pastor at Esperanza Lutheran Church in Ahwatukee Foothills.