Friday, June 14, 2013

Summer is Prime Ministry Time by Rev. Susan Smith

Some of our congregations are still shutting down more or less for the summer, even though this is a great time to provide fun and educational ministries for your congregants and your neighbors. The mystery of why we reduce our activities in the summer goes back to our Bostonian roots where it was necessary to leave the city and move out to the Cape or the Catskills to avoid epidemics of disease in the muggy, unsanitary urban environments. As far as I know, most of us have no such need for the practice now.

When I served as a parish ministry, I looked forward to the summer because those long daylight hours provided a luxurious amount of time for those who don’t drive at night to attend evening activities and because our busy families with no school obligations have time to participate in multigenerational programs. There is ample time to have a coffee gathering or small group ministry before the workday begins for the larks and mild nights to gather around a campfire with instruments and poetry for the night owls.

Before we had our very popular Hogwarts Camps, we used to provide Peace Camps or Science Camps in the summer and invite the community to attend. At the SWUUC Fall Leadership Training, we are providing an Evolution Camp to fill possible gaps in the education of our children, and I would hope to see these duplicated. While we often schedule these programs for a week during the day, it accommodates the desire of families to spend time together to offer them in the sunlit hours of the evening or as a weekend retreat. One of the best I’ve ever attended was a Saturday in which folks of all ages prepared for and held a Parliament of All Beings. These are great programs for a cluster of congregations to offer together.

Summer is a nice time to bring people together to share their hobbies with others. Fishing? Birding? Crafting? Gardening? Reading? There is something about summer that rests our minds just enough to make us open to new experience and gives us the patience to persist in learning. It is this openness that I do not like to squander.

The mind sufficiently rested to be open is fertile ground for faith development. Not only are the newcomers who have moved into your community seeking in the summer, but all of us are to some extent available to be amazed, engaged and fascinated. Worship can be less formal and at the same time more impactful. We can provide a safe space for worship services that are a bit more right-brained or more body than mind. We can approach the same transcendent value like peacemaking or agape love or Mother Earth in a dozen different ways. It’s summer, and we have the time.

Thank you all so much for the opportunity to take my wonderful sabbatical. If you want to see what I was doing check out my sabbatical website at