Friday Nights

Ah, Friday nights in the autumn. How many hours did I spend on or near a football field? Now, only a very few hours of mine were ever spent actually playing football. When I was at the University of Illinois I was on an intramural team with some of my dorm mates (I still don’t know how they ever talked me into that!) The one time my name was ever in the student newspaper was when I made the winning touchdown catch in a game. I can still remember how time slowed down as I realized the ball was coming to me. . .

Most of my Friday nights for decades were at one high school football field or another. I was in marching band for four years in high school. Then as a small town pastor’s spouse, I was often in the stands. After that, both of our daughters became cheerleaders, starting in junior high. ( I was even the coach for one of their teams one year.) The church where my husband and I were co-pastors in Burlington, Iowa, was filled with cheerleaders. I bought up every small, inexpensive thing I ever found that was purple so we would have them for “spirit gifts”—gifts exchanged for every, single game by the cheerleaders. Both of our daughters have also been cheerleading coaches—real coaches, unlike me who only organized the junior high girls until the varsity cheerleaders got there to coach them. So, we have also gone to games to watch their squads cheer. I have even attended the state cheerleading competition in Des Moines, sometimes as a mom and sometimes as an “assistant coach” to help my daughter manage her team. ( And I might say, one of those times her team won the state championship, the only team in any sport from the high school where she worked then to achieve that distinction!)

In other words, riding the bleachers through heat, rain, snow and everything in between was a huge part of my life for decades.

But now I am in a break from that. No one is coaching cheerleaders right now. My grandchildren are not quite old enough to be in the band or cheerleading squad and the boys have been banned by their mothers from playing football because of the danger of injury. I might ride the bleachers again but it won’t be on an every Friday night basis as it was for so long.

I am an expert at the sport of bleacher sitting. I know how to prepare to survive the worst kind of rainy night (the secret is to bring a garbage bag to wrap a blanket in to sit on and another garbage bag to wear over whatever else you have on.) I know how to listen carefully from the driver’s seat of the cheerleading van to hear just what is really happening with the girls in the passenger seats. (Somehow they think you cannot hear them while you are driving.) All of those skills no longer make any difference in my life. Although I enjoy a nice, quiet, dry, warm Friday evening, I still miss those days.

Every one of our congregations has something that used to enliven their ministries and about which people gained great skill sets that is now gone. What do we do with those skills? How do we honor all of the hours that went into the long ago craft sale or the sunrise service on Easter or the rally day picnic attended by hundreds? There may be ways to pass along those skills to others.

But, there is also no shame in simply celebrating what once was and looking for what is next. Just as families move from one phase of their lives to another, so do churches. Spending time longing for what once was and getting stuck in those memories denies what God is calling us to do in the present. Time to put away the pompoms and the hair bows and the bright purple ponchos and look for new ways to enjoy Friday night. Time for many of our congregations to have fond memories of what was and open their hearts to whatever it is to which God is now calling them, so that they can bring hope in the name of Jesus Christ in a new way for a new time.


Susan D. Krummel (Sue)

Executive Presbyter

Presbytery of Chicago