Resolving Low Sunday

Hubby and I were having Thai last night when he asked me if I was going to church today. I said no, that I had taxes to do, that I had laundry to do and that — being the week after Easter; also known as Low Sunday or Quasimodo Sunday, but no fair swinging from the bell tower — it was more than likely that wherever we wanted to go there would be a supply preacher, a substitute organist or no choir. The congregation would be almost be smaller sized than usual, and seeing as we tend to go to small churches that’s hardly a comfort. And even without going back to old calendars, I’m sure I’ve been guilty of similar behaviors myself.

I know these are poor excuses, but church shoppers don’t need excuses. If anything, they need to be sold on why to come back to church the Sunday after Easter and keep returning. In short, programming for a low Low Sunday feeds into a “Christmas and Easter” attendance expectation.

And what a shame, too. Low Sunday is liturgically the second half of a two-part Very Special After School Special. (“Previously, on Easter . . . .”) (An explanation for the non-Gen-Xers reading) Some of my favorite lectionary readings come on Low Sunday:

How very good and pleasant it is when kindred live together in unity!

(Psalm 133:1)

Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.

(John 20:21-22)

We declare to you what was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the word of life — this life was revealed, and we have seen it and testify to it, and declare to you the eternal life that was with the Father and was revealed to us — we declare to you what we have seen and heard so that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ.We are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.

(1 John 1:1-4)

I guess Low Sunday weariness spawns from Holy Week overprogramming. Time to be a little brutal: what did those Holy Week observances really do for your congregation? What did you accomplish that might not have been accomplished if there were neighborhood Maundy Thursday or Good Friday observances, perhaps on rotation? What if some of the music and floral budget was held back for Low Sunday?

I know some churches must do Low Sunday very well, and they should be examined and emulated. The first thing, it seems to me, that Easter ought not be capped with some terminal punctuation.

By Scott Wells

Scott Wells, 46, is a Universalist Christian minister doing Universalist theology and church administration hacks in Washington, D.C.


  1. I agree completely about not going into rest mode as soon as Easter Sunday is over (in fact, Easter lasts for fifty days, longer than Lent), but I can’t agree about cutting Holy Week services. Those liturgies are some of the most beautiful in the whole church year, and it drives me nuts when churches don’t have them. And it’s hard to overestimate what everyone washing everyone else’s feet during the maundy can do for a community.

    And I’m not sure I’m comfortable with the notion that the liturgy should “do” anything specific for the community. It’s worship of God, first and foremost — it’s not merely programming that can be done away with because it’s inconvenient or doesn’t draw many people.

  2. Our Maundy Thursday service was the only extra worship opportunity we offered at Eliot. It is a half-hour communion service and is lightly attended, so I cannot imagine that it would tire too many folks out!

    Still, we had low attendance today. I preached it though. I try to put extra effort into the Low Sunday service to reward those happy few who come. The title: “Unto Ceasar”. Yes, it was a sort of ‘Tax Day” sermon concerning the separation of church and state. It was fun.

  3. Coming from old Puritan stock as I do, I guess I feel that there is only one holy day, and that is the sabbath day — Sunday — when God rested. To elevate one Sunday above any other is to bow to idols. Yup, I really do feel that somewhere down in my guts, and my Puritan ancestors would be pleased. Sure, I bow to the pressure of commercialized American culture and make a big deal out of Christmas, but I always preach the Sunday after Christmas too. Naturally I feel that Easter is just another Sabbath, but with more flowers. Oh, and in the New Bedford congregation attendance is usually lower on Easter than other Sundays because so many people have family obligations elsewhere.

    @Adam — Oo, oo, I like your sermon topic better than mine! Next year….

  4. You know, they always say these things about Low Sundays, but our church was packed today. And so many children, I almost didnt have enough pots of soil/seeds for everyone. Yikes, it was crazy.

    And the choir was supposed to be smaller, but they looked full size to me.

    Which just goes to show you, it might be worth it show up somewhere for a so-called low sunday. I mean, sure, it’s jsut the lil ole associate preaching, but you might be surprised.

  5. Location and school vacations also play a role: My wife’s urban Episcopal church sees attendance drop the Sunday after Thanksgiving, for example, but it goes up at the suburban church where she worked because young adult children were back in town and so were adult children of members with their families. With Easter in New England, on the other hand, there’s the double-whammy effect of school vacations: This year, the Sunday after Easter was also the start of spring break, so many families had hit the road.

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