Whatever you did, you did not miss church unless it was very dire. If you were sick, you came to church anyway, unless you were throwing up or had diarrhea. Unless you were contagious you were at church.
When it came to working your job, you had to keep your priorities right. First of all, if you were interviewing for a job and they wanted you to work on a church night or Sunday, you turned that job down and walked away. You needed to put God first. You didn’t participate in anything that would take you away from regular church services.
There were a few exceptions, such as being on your honeymoon. However, many people did not even pay attention to those exceptions. I cannot tell you how many times we had visitors from other UPC or independent churches, people that were on vacation, and even people that were on their honeymoon. You just did not miss church!
Not only did you not miss church, you needed to be there 30 minutes early to pray. If you were not making it a full 30 minutes ahead of time for prayer, you would hear about it, often from the pulpit (in a general rebuke to all).
I remember feeling tremendous guilt, as a mother of four very small children, when I didn’t make it to church the full 30 minutes ahead of time. I felt, whether true or not, like people were judging me for being late. I wasn’t even late, but it felt late because I wasn’t there 30 minutes before church for prayer. However,like most young mothers with small children, it is a huge task to get all those babies ready for church. Then, about the time you think you got them all ready, one of them leaks out of his diaper, or someone gets something on their clothes. Then you have to change that and clean them up. It’s a really a chore to get a family to church on time. Also, trying to pray for 30 minutes before church with four kids under the age of 10 can be a real handful. While you’re trying to pray, you get five words out, and a couple of kids are fighting, or they’re talking too loud, or some other childish behavior that’s disturbing others. I found it rather pointless as a mother of four small children to even come early for prayer.
Be that as it may, it was definitely expected. You certainly were not going to have any position of leadership if you were not very faithful with coming early for prayer.
Another thing about that culture was that if you were going to miss service, for whatever reason, you called the pastor and told him ahead of time. If you didn’t, he would be wondering where you were, and you were sure to get a call as he was trying to figure out why you weren’t there. Strangely enough, that is still expected in the church I attend now, although I do not do it.
Many other people find it ridiculous, as we are all adults and can choose to go when we want to and stay home when we want to. It was not that way in the church where I grew up! If you were not in church every service, and early to pray, you had better have a really good reason!