Saturday, July 23, 2005

summer paradoxes

The summer, in our parts at least, holds within it all sorts of paradoxes. You love to see the kids travel, head out for retreats and service projects. You miss them. You want them to come home. You resent the mess that they bring back with them. You love the reduced schedules, as committees meet with less frequency. You love the pace, but you are bogged down by the heat. You have time to walk in the evenings--the days are longer---but the humidity makes that almost impossible, some days.

You recall the imagery of the New England preachers who left the cities and retreated all summer to craft sermons for the coming nine months, but you realize that life in a congregation doesn't quite follow an academic pattern---congregants die, administrative projects move forward, or they stall, people do worship God, some of them with regularity, on Sundays, even deep in the heart of July. You plan family vacations, but then your teenage children make their own plans, with their peers, and all of a sudden there are overlapping calendars that defy order or consolidation. You think of pushing it all into the fall, but stewardship campaigns, renewal services and charge conferences await. Better do what you are going to do now.

Summer does have its enjoyments---no early morning alarm clocks, no crowded urban school parking lots, the opportunity to watch Charlie Rose, if you want to, or a new season of Monk, or a few innings of Braves baseball, or to catch up with friends here and there.

Yes, the congregation is sometimes a bit sparse, just a bit, but by grace on some Sundays it is not that noticeable, it seems to be a critical mass, and even so there is time to talk with people, time to catch up with them too, time to catch your breath, even if it means going in after the class has begun (or even skipping it1, or getting away later from the service.

And so the summer is not quite the undisturbed vacation, but neither is it quite like the rest of the year. It is a time to think about sermons, at least through the late fall. I'm currently working my way through Exodus. It is a time to look at the months ahead on the calendar and ask: is it too full, should I accept that invitation, should we offer this class, or are things best as they are now? It is a time to slow down, to make peace with the heat, to drink more ice water, to read a little more of the newspaper, maybe even a novel or two, and yes, when possible, to squeeze in that short trip or two, or three, to the mountains. The fall, with its financial decisions, volleyball games, pta meetings, denominational paperwork, and family weekends, cannot be far behind.

"How is your summer?", I ask a friend as we pass each other in atrium after the last service. "It is almost gone", she replies.

True enough. Yes, it's hot. But it's summer. Enjoy it!


Post a Comment

<< Home