From Kay Stoltz, member of St. Catherine of Alexandria, Manzanita/Nehalem. This was originally published on Episcopal Cafe.
“Grandma, I don’t feel good,” I whined. “I can’t go to church today, I feel awful.”
She had come to get me up at some ungodly hour. It was the first day of summer vacation, for heaven’s sake, and I wasn’t even awake. So tired, I convinced myself that church was too much in my weak state. However, I was sure that given some rest, I’d be fine for a picnic or the lake later. I didn’t want to miss a single minute of vacation.
“Well, too bad. But if you don’t feel well enough for church, you won’t be able to go to the lake, will you?”
“What? Oh, no.” I had forgotten that little detail, the summer rule.
“Get up, wash your face, you’ll feel better.” And of course, I did.
Grandma’s rule: Summer vacation from school was not a vacation from church. God is first, and we honor the Sabbath by worshipping in church. God didn’t take a vacation, and neither do we.
The church had no air conditioning, therefore we might not sing all five verses of a hymn that day, and we could relax our dress code. Nevertheless, attend church we did. And we felt better. Church, even to a child, set the tone for the day and week. Grandma was an important person in the church, and I basked in her shadow. It didn’t hurt to receive compliments for attending church, such a conscientious young person. Plus, they always had good treats.
Today, grandma’s rules don’t apply to my church. Sunday is not sacrosanct. Attendance is down, even with the occasional visitor vacationing here. Weekly and monthly meetings and other church activities are put on hiatus or limited. The choir, for example, takes the summer off. Last week, when I mentioned a new book to study for our prayer group, the response was,
“I can’t do that until September, too much going on with vacation and company. Talk to me then.”
God doesn’t take a vacation. I echo Grandma’s thought. God doesn’t say that He now will answer prayers only on certain days, or that some prayers are too complicated to deal with now. That sounds silly and ignorant, doesn’t it? But don’t we say something similar? Is it theologically sound, can we defend it?
The Ten Commandments tell us to honor the Sabbath.“Remember the Sabbath day, and keep it holy.” However, Jesus says,“The sabbath was made for humankind, not humankind for the sabbath.
Can we make the case that recreation is good for our soul? That a change of scene rejuvenates us? Strengthening family relationships while vacationing builds strong bonds? We can demonstrate and spread our faith elsewhere? We can establish Christian community in other places?
Or are these excuses to do what we want, to slide (just a little, we tell ourselves). After all, we work hard; we deserve a break from the pressure of daily life, including church. Spending the summer, a couple of weeks, or weekends at the lake, beach or traveling is a tradition, which strengthens familial ties.
Each of us has to answer that, of course. The break from routine is happening, and the goal of renewing, refreshing our psyches is important. However, I submit that with prayerful examination, summer can be rewarding spiritually. Without the pressures of the activities so important for the community of the church, the meetings, study groups, etc., we are free to examine our personal lives, seek answers, commune prayerfully with nature, and/or build stronger relationships. In addition to fulfilling the all-important goal of refreshing and renewing ourselves.
We have the time to introduce a new friend to God, study the bible, visit someone who needs us right then or go to any number of places the Spirit leads us. What a pleasure to spend an hour in quiet contemplation and prayer. We can’t do it all, of course, but a new approach can result in a renewed sense of purpose, a stronger faith.
Grandma taught me to be faithful to God, to worship and be true to my church, and not give in to temptations of the world. I think she would applaud my taking a break temporarily, to strengthen and explore mysteries of faith, hope and love with the help of the Holy Spirit.