Summer is just around the corner. Baseball, the very embodiment of summer, has been playing its late spring games, and school is just about ending. In just a few short days, it will empty its cache of charges out into our communities, and believe it or not, the Fourth of July is not far off.
Friends of mine who are religious leaders, have for many years now, told me that summer brings special challenges for religious groups. The number of visitors declines rapidly over the summer. In fact, even the number of our regular members who attend on a weekly basis, begins to drop off. I’ve one friend, who purposely schedules for the summer, what I sometimes call “difficult sermons”. You know the ones, where theology or difficult to understand passages of scripture get taken on. His reasoning is that the vast majority of folks that attend worship services over the summer are those who are “core members,” so go to what builds the core, not what might attract a visitor, or reach out to those with less “buy in.”
And that is surely a loss for us all. What a great number of religious groups we have in Bell County. And while I would hope that all of “my people” would attend just as regularly over the summer, it’s also a great time to do a little visiting. I’ve found that with just the slightest preparation, a visit to another faith community can be the greatest blessing. Sometimes I learn of brothers and sisters that are so close, and yet I never reached out. Sometimes I learn why I follow the spiritual path that I do. But I’ve yet to really meet very many who did not welcome visitors with open arms and great excitement.
As a faith leader myself, I’ve also found more than a few things that I wanted to bring back to my own community. Sometimes it’s the excitement, sometimes it’s an insight into the life of grace, often it’s the sense of common calling that embraces all of God’s children. I can’t say that I endorse all aspects of every faith community of Bell County, but I can certainly say that every one of them has fed my soul in some manner.
This summer, when vacation travel seems to be the thing, why not reach out, and visit a place that you may not have journeyed? Whether you are affirmed, challenged, or just bored, in the long run, your life will be greatly enriched.