Thursday, July 09, 2009

Summer at Church: Message from the Senior Warden

(I am currently Senior Warden at St. James' Episcopal Church, Marietta, GA. This is reprinted from our newsletter.)

Picture: a logo that I designed tying the summer sun to the scallop shell, traditional symbol of St. James.

There are blessings in summer church at St. James. Nine o’clockers are bumping up against the eleven fifteen crowd, and we like it. We share one bread, one cup. Then Bay hosts us at coffee hour in the Parish Hall, where we catch up with people we’d lost track of. No hurry: we still have an hour of mild summer morning awaiting us when we leave. Hallelujah!

In other seasons, we pass each other coming and going at the church all times of day, all days of the week. We study, discuss, pray, sew, sing, cook, eat, plan, account, volunteer in the office, visit shut ins, arrange flowers, garden, rehearse, meditate, exercise. Oh, yes, and we worship, choosing a service from Wednesday, Saturday, and three times on Sundays. With 400 regular communicants, we are the size for what the Alban Institute calls a “multi – celled church,” where lay leaders do what the priest in any clergy – centered church can only dream of achieving. Then summer comes, and the pace at St. James slows.

What Jesus said about summer vacation isn’t recorded, but he did say that you can’t grow grapes if you lop the branch off the Vine. “I am the Vine,” he explained, “and you [plural] are the branches.” Did he mean that we branches can connect to the Vine staying home Sundays, praying alone, reading books by C. S. Lewis? That’s what “being the church” means for many who say they “don’t like organized religion.” But as our Rector recently reminded us, life in the Spirit is like dancing: you can do it in private, without partners or witnesses – but then, what’s the point?

Summer also begins with the season of Pentecost, when we especially remember the church’s mission to be Christ on earth. He rose and left us behind to complete his work. Now, it’s up to us with the Holy Spirit to be Jesus in the flesh to each other and to the world. Away from the funny, fractious, needy, giving, old and young people at our church, we permit Jesus little opportunity to work on us in any unexpected way, and we have little opportunity to be Jesus to someone else.

So let’s make St. James a part of our own personal summer renewal. Let’s make that “small church” experience something we look forward to. Let’s make it a part of our summer routine to catch up with people during breakfast at St. James, partake in summer discussion groups, worship (join our summer choir!), and stay for coffee hour on the shady loggia. Out of town, we can read our clergy’s daily devotions and “This Week at St. James” (subscribe to both via our web site, if you don’t already get them by email). We can keep up with the daily lectionary and prayer. We can make St. James’ Day July 25 - 26 a great homecoming.

All summer long, let’s build up the spiritual energy to do Christ’s work through St. James during the rest of the year.

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