As the School Year (and its poor step-child the Church Program Year) wind down, attendance starts to dwindle in congregations throughout the land. Clergy often rail against this with guilt-inducing phrases like "God never takes a vacation" and announcements encouraging parishioners to bring back church bulletins from their vacation spots (and, no, stopping into a church to pick up last week's bulletin doesn't count).
While I will never understand the culture of "Episcopalians are the only ones God trusts enough to take the summer off," there are actually several advantages to attending church in the dog days of summer.
1. Ample Parking. Tired of having to walk from the hinter-land areas of the parking lot? Annoyed that Sunday morning has suddenly morphed into a forced death march with toddlers and a ruck sack full of goldfish? During the summer you can arrive one minute before the liturgy begins and get VIP parking right next to the front door.
2. Speed Mass. What really adds to the length of the service is all those people waiting to receive the Eucharist. In the summer, you march right up to the communion rail and by the time you've returned to your pew the priest is half-way through the post-communion prayer.
3. Supply Clergy. Have you grown tired of listening to your rector preach week after week? In the summer you get to hear a variety of voices from the pulpit while he/she is on vacation. Never mind that the key to engaging supply clergy is to find the worst preacher in your entire diocese -- this way the congregation will find a new appreciation for your own ministry.
4. Exercise While You Pray. If you're looking to build up your beach body for the post-church outing to the ocean, summer church blends perfectly with your fitness goals. Since it's hot as Hades in there, you'll be furiously waving your bulletin in front of your face to keep cool. This builds arm strength and creates bulging biceps -- and all in the name of the Lord!
5. Lower Your Anxiety. Have you ever been frightened to the point of diving under the pew when the priest breaks that large wafer because you thought it was a gunshot? With such high humidity, you won't even notice since the wafer bends like a Whoopee Pie rather than snaps like a Wheat Thin.
6. Lose Weight. Since it's already a zillion degrees in the church (see #4), consider wearing a wet suit to church. Some people spend thousands of dollars on saunas to lose weight. All you have to do is show up and sit, kneel, stand, cross yourself, walk to communion, go to coffee hour, etc.
7. Ceiling Fans. Bored during the never-ending sermon by the Supply Priest? (see #3) Ceiling fans can mesmerize adults as well as young children. Who cares that they never seem to be doing anything but circulating hot air (see #3).
8. Nag the Priest. With fewer people around you have a better opportunity to share your deep pastoral issues with the clergy 30 seconds before the opening procession begins.
9. Less Likely to be Asked to Join a Committee. Since many church committees go on hiatus during the summer, you won't have to avoid the committee chairs when you see them before the service or at the post office.
10. Bloody Marys at Coffee Hour. Oh, your church doesn't offer this option? Talk to the rector about instituting this practice. Preferably just before the opening procession.
These are just a few reasons why going to church in the summer is good for your soul. You may have others to add but in the meantime, just rejoice that Jesus never takes a vacation from you.
See you on Sunday.