“See you next fall,” one church member says to another at the end of May. After all, the summer season is beginning. The expectation is that many pews will be empty as people leave for vacation. People often live down to our expectations.
Not unlike expecting a half-full church the week after Christmas or Easter. Perhaps it is not the same in Judaism or Islam the week after a high holy day or during the summer season. I cannot authoritatively speak to that. But I do know that in none of the world’s great religions do I hear of God taking the summer off. So why do we?Lest I be misunderstood, I have nothing against vacations! Everyone, including clergy, paid and volunteer staff, needs vacation time. We have a God of Sabbath rest. And a God of the mountains, lakes and sky. The Creator God re-creates us through recreation.
But God doesn’t say, “See you next fall.” And thank God for that, because although people need a break from routine, think what it would be like to have a God absent from our lives, from the world, for three months. During the summer, people will have joys to share with their faith community, discernments to make, suffering to endure, grief to bear. Babies will be born and people will die, perhaps some suddenly, shockingly. We will need each other. We need to worship together, to hear words from a holy book, places to talk about the ordinary and unimaginable happenings in the world, a faith community with whom to pray.Many congregations provide creative ways to carry out education and worship: alternative times of the week, outdoor services, family vacation Bible Schools, multigenerational learning opportunities, service trips, mission projects. I trust these alternatives will be offered not out of frustration, but joyful expectation. We need to expect each other to come. And someone might just come for the first time.
Kevin, a single father, brought his three-year-old daughter to church one summer Sunday. Although unaccustomed to weekly worship, she participated fully in listening, singing, and praying. Kevin asked afterwards about Christian education for her. He was told to come back in the fall when things would start again.I need to see you this summer. You need to see me. Company in town? Bring them along! Our joy will be complete. God doesn’t take a vacation from us. Thank God.