Yes, it’s that time of year. The weather warms up and all across America churches empty out. It’s different in places like Martha’s Vineyard or Key West where congregations swell with the summer population. But for the rest of us attendance drops dramatically. Rather than ignore this trend I like to release my annual (new and improved!) list of the Top Ten Reasons NOT to Go to Church This Summer.
1. It’s Not Air-Conditioned
True. But I believe Jesus said to the disciples in the Garden of Gethsemane, “Won’t you sweat with me one hour?” Or something to that effect. Plus bulletins make terrific personal fans. If you’re lucky your spouse/child/pew mate will make you feel like Pharaoh by fanning you throughout the service. Also, you can play “Guess What Saint That Looks Like” with the ever-growing sweat spot on your priest’s alb.
2. I Have a Boat
Of course you do. If you live on the South Shore of Boston like I do everyone seems to. Boats are great – Jesus spent a lot of time on boats since his disciples were mostly fishermen. He preached from them, calmed storms in them, and walked on water towards them. Come to church this summer before launching your boat and I guarantee you’ll hear at least one Biblical story involving boats and/or water. [Note to my friends in the Heartland: ignore this one or substitute "RV" for "boat"].
What, your teenager isn’t mowing your lawn just to pitch in around the house and demonstrate his/her love for you? Mowing your lawn on Sunday morning is a sure way to annoy the neighbors. And when you want to add that mother-in-law suite onto the back of the house you sure want their support. Don’t risk it; come to church and save the lawn for later.
4. My Parents Never Went to Church in the Summer
I’d prefer if you kept your family of origin issues between you and your therapist. But since you bring it up, isn’t this a terrific way to embrace your inner teenager and do the exact opposite of what your parents did? You, my friends, can stop the notion that Episcopalians are the only ones that God trusts enough to take the summer off. In other words, stick it to the man by going to church this summer!
5. There’s Church in the Summer?
Yup. Every Sunday morning just like the rest of the year. Clergy prepare and preach (occasionally brilliant) sermons whether there are 300 people in the pews or 50.
6. I’m Away for the Weekend
That’s great – I hope you have a relaxing time. And I bet there is even a small Episcopal church nearby. Look for one of those red, white, and blue “The Episcopal Church Welcomes You” signs or use Google and your GPS to guide you into a pew on Sunday morning. Then you can either return and share with the rector and vestry how much better things were at St. Whatever or be grateful for the good things going on at your own St. Whatever.
7. There’s No Church School
You can’t teach kids to eat out in a restaurant if you never take them to one. The same holds true for appropriate church behavior. As for older kids who are “bored” during the service, send them to the acolyte master (assuming he/she is around during the summer) to get suited up for some gentle on-the-job training. The summer is a great time to learn the acolyting ropes.
8. I Gave up Summer Church for Lent
I don’t believe that’s an “approved” Lenten discipline like, say, Lent Madness. But if you’re simply not in the habit of going to church in the summer, this is the year to break it! Amaze and inspire your friends as you receive the spiritual refreshment that comes with regular church attendance. Don’t be surprised if people start coming up to you and saying, “You look great! Have you lost weight?” And you’ll be able to respond with “I look fabulous because I’ve been going to church during the summer.”
Well, we’ll be sure to keep the windows open so you can see the beauty of the earth from your pew. Maybe we’ll move Coffee Hour outdoors on nice days or hold the occasional “Mass on the Grass.” One great thing about being indoors for an hour on Sunday morning is that you don’t need to hog tie your children to slather sunscreen on them before leaving the house. And, as far as I know, no one has been eaten by black flies during the liturgy.
10. I Have a 9:00 am Tee Time
Perfect. Come to the 8 o’clock service. The 37 minutes you spend in church might even help your game. The 8 o’clock is actually a great option during the summer for people who want to get a jump on the day, get out to the beach, take a hike, go boating or whatever. You can experience the beauty of Elizabethan English and then speak to one another in thee’s and thou’s the rest of the day.
I hope you’ve found a good reason in this list to stay away from church until after Labor Day. But if not, enjoy worshiping the risen Christ throughout the summer months and may the days ahead be a time of rest, refreshment, and relaxation. And, anyway, there’s plenty of parking available on Sunday mornings at church.