July 03, 2014
For many New Englander’s summer is a chance to get away to our camps and cottages, mountains and beaches. Worship attendance is typically low, and some even take “off” from summer worship even if they don’t have weekend plans. On the other hand, a few of our churches experience summer swells as they are located near tourist destinations that attract visitors to New England. The churches I served were not vacation spots, but we often had more visitors in summer months than other times of the year, especially as new families moved to the area and were church shopping with their kids. So, for the faithful regulars who stick around, this is your opportunity to prepare to welcome guests to your church. Greeters may be in short supply, so you may have to work extra hard to recruit regulars and train them to show up early with a smile and to be on the lookout for visitors. Don’t skimp on childcare or other acts of hospitality either, (like fellowship time…maybe switch to ice coffee and lemonade?). And don’t apologize for having so few in worship…celebrate with those who have gathered, remembering that “where two or three are gathered…” God is with you.
We also have a chance to welcome visitors to New England beyond our sanctuaries. Some of our congregations will take worship to outside to the beach or the town square. Our church camps welcome hundreds of kids of all ages to worship outdoors around campfires, lakeside amphitheaters, and on mountaintops. If you’re out on the hiking trails, you may encounter several through-hikers on the Appalachian Trail. Every year, hundreds of men and women will travel 2100 miles on this trail from Georgia to Maine. Among those traveling this year are David Smith (trail name “Short Stop“), who is an official AT Chaplain working for the Holston Conference* (http://www.trailjournals.com/shortstop), and our own Rev. Mark Monson Alley’s son Jonathon hiking with his girlfriend Britt (https://www.facebook.com/jon.alley.92). Through-hikers spend about 6 months carrying very little with them. You can be a “trail angel” by leaving some “trail magic” for these hikers. You can even go further and offer to bring them to your home for a shower, home-cooked meal, a nap on your couch, or a chance to do laundry. You can follow these hikers online to check their progress and see when they will be at a trail near you. Or, you can just offer some kindness to random hikers anytime.
Enjoy these summer days...remembering that we never take a vacation from sharing the love of God and the peace of Christ.
Connected in Christ,
*The Holston Conference is looking for their next AT chaplain: that “perfect someone” who’s both an avid hiker and an effective ambassador for Jesus Christ. If you are interested in applying for this unique ministry opportunity…contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.