No more Sunday morning parade

Published 6:48 am Monday, September 21, 2009

In the 16 years I have written weekly columns for the Herald, I have never repeated a previously published piece. But five years ago I made a promise to the Austin Area Chamber of Commerce and the Austin Festival Committee: Because they claimed they hadn’t noticed July 4 would fall on a Sunday in 2004 and scheduled the parade for that Sunday morning—church time, I promised I would remind them in ample time prior to the next time this coincidence would occur. This is next year—2010. I remind them now publicly and invite my readers to express their wishes to them now. Please read what the Herald published on July 5, 2004:

No more Sunday morning parades

However great yesterday’s parade surely was and however highly I praised it last week, one offence marred the July 4th parade and must not be repeated: it directly conflicted and competed with church services in a community where church attendance and loyalty demonstrate community. For all the sensitivity we have developed to culturally diverse groups, society is moving in the opposite direction concerning churches and increasingly factoring them out when scheduling community events.

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The Fourth of July again falls on a Sunday in the year 2010. I call on the Parade Committee of the Austin Festival to put it down right now that in 2010 the parade will be held in the afternoon. They did it in 1993 and again in 1999, and it worked well. My investigation finds no good reason it could not have been scheduled to start after customary church times yesterday. The people responsible failed to plan with sufficient carefulness.

They noticed as far back as January that the Fourth again falls on a Sunday. Only in March did the committee alert the churches to the conflict and expect their cooperation—after the fact. The blame for the conflict was disingenuously deflected to Blooming Prairie by stating that our neighbors could not reschedule their parade for late afternoon. I would be more patient of the committee’s considerable problems if they had just come out and admitted they goofed. They did goof. I understand, but to claim the conflict was unavoidable has to be regarded as evasive, and to blame someone else is not acceptable.

The churches are, according to my several inquires, uniformly disappointed with this unnecessary and insensitive conflict. Yet, they have been remarkably gracious in accommodating by rescheduling their own services. They shouldn’t be imposed upon again in 2010.

My purpose in expressing this opinion does not specifically target the parade and certainly I do not wish to embarrass the committee further, but I make the point that all public events need to factor into their planning churches’ weekly schedules, so important to us all.

The public schools provide a good example of such sensitivity. As, especially high school, sports and other extra-curricular events began to crowd weeknights, the schools and churches talked with each other and agreed to dedicate Wednesdays as “church night” or, if one should prefer, “community night.” The schools, then, schedule on Wednesdays only those more lightly attended events and free the evening up for various church activities. I feel this is a splendid example of community.

None of the clergy with whom I spoke evidence bitterness or actual anger about the conflict, but this understandably disappoints and frustrates them. Not a small number of church members, on the other hand, are exceedingly angry. One man who has entered in every parade to date told me he refused this year, and he refused specifically in protest to what he considers the unconscionable conflict.

Do such people overly react? I think so. But I also understand. We have learned that members of racial minorities have so often been treated poorly in the past they remain overly sensitive to possible mistreatment when nothing of the sort is intended. So we accommodate and are ourselves carefully sensitive to their understandable fears. I submit the churches now require the same sensitivity and deference.

Not only must the 2010 parade start later, but I call upon us all to show gratitude to our churches for contributions to the community and be sensitive to their feelings.

I so wrote here in 2004, and I now offer it as a reminder. Please.