For the first time in my memory, our city is experiencing a "snow day" on a Sunday (yes, my kids think God is playing a cruel joke by dumping a blizzard on the weekend!). All of the local churches, because of what's being hailed by sensationalistic local media as "The Blizzard of '07," are closed this morning and services are cancelled.
But why should a dumping of snow shut down Sunday worship across the city? Because people overwhelmingly drive to church. A Sunday Snow Day is a tangible confirmation of the loss of the parish in the North American church. Sunday is yet another "commuting" day because the automobility of religious communities merely mimicks the automobility of the culture in general--with this exception: if this was a Monday, more folks would have braved the roads for work than for worship.
This is related to the research project ("Subdivided by Faith") that Mark Mulder and I are conducting for the Center for Social Research. In particular, we are investigating how and why evangelicalism (and other Christian traditions, too) so easily gave up on "the parish"--and the impact of that on culture.
The other question to be asked is whether there's any hope for recovering the parish model. Could we imagine a configuration of urban life where a "snow day" just means bundling up for the walk to church?