July 3, 2014

Summer and Episcopalians

You’ve heard the old yarn: Episcopalians are the only ones God trusts to take the summer off.

We laugh. But underneath is the grain of truth: a lot of Episcopalians do take the summer off, from attending worship to participating in parish events. For many of us, summer includes vacations, long weekends, maybe even some lazy mornings. And I’m the first to admit that I’ve missed several Sunday mornings this summer because we’ve been out of town.

Still, I think there are some important opportunities for formation and fellowship in the summer. Part of the equation is discerning what people are hungry for. What will be a strong enough draw to pull them from gardens and porches, from golf courses and beds?

Over the past couple of years, a theme has emerged in our congregation. When formation opportunities focus on spirituality, people show up. An ECW retreat on spiritual growth attracted forty women on a Saturday morning. Classes on the Anglican rosary (making them, praying with them) are consistently well-attended. And yesterday, more than thirty people came out for the first of a four-week class on the spirituality of Julian of Norwich.

Thirty people. On July 2. We ran out of books.

The priest was amazed. But then offered that it’s evident that people are hungry for this type of formation, presented in this way. Adult formation on Sunday mornings is a struggle, with the stalwart few staying after worship. Weekly Bible study has a core group of faithful attenders, a dozen or so.

But these short-term sessions on Wednesday nights hit the jackpot.

As your congregation is shaping the fall schedule, spend some time in discernment. What are people hungering for? When do people show up? For what kind of events and classes? What times seem to fit the schedule of your parishioners? What type of commitment do they like to make? Four weeks at a time? A whole season? A year or three?

Asking these questions and being honest about the answers may help bring more people to the table (or circle) to explore the Word of God in community. That is what God truly trusts (and hopes) we will do.