I remember it as the time when I no longer wore shoes. From the end of school in early June until the last week of August, I went barefoot or wore sandals. At first, my feet were tender and I avoided the sidewalks, pavement and concrete. But in time, the bottoms of my feet became tough and I could walk on a pine cone and not even wince.
I remember summer as the time the ice cream truck began to make its circuit. Summer meant that my father would invite the neighbors over for his annual attempt at making homemade ice cream (which strangely resembled a milkshake).
Summer was the time for the attic fan, chirping crickets, snapping beans and watching the Braves. Summer inaugurated a new reality for me and my family—bedtimes were revoked, naps commenced after being in the neighborhood pool each day, and books were devoured in makeshift forts and in caddywhompassed tree houses.
Brothers and sisters, friends and neighbors, it is with a great deal of satisfaction that I proclaim that summer begins now.
Summer means changes for the life of our church family. The next couple of months provide us with a unique opportunity to do things a bit differently than we do the rest of the year. Summer alters our rhythms and changes our perspective. With robust spring rains, our mountains are ripe for new discoveries and new ways of seeing the world.
Above all, summer provides us the chance to practice Sabbath. The ancient Jewish tradition and commandment that roots our own Christian heritage is more than a once a week event. Sabbath is a time of rest, of play, of intimacy with God and with one another. Shalom, often translated as peace or wholeness, becomes our goal as we put into action the assertion that we can stop trying to manufacture our own prosperity long enough to simply enjoy our Creator.
To practice Sabbath, therefore, we must stop participating in our normally scheduled routines so that we can allow for new things to emerge. Resting, contemplating and praying represent the fruit of our rest, of our Sabbath. It is in this spirit of rest and renewal that we present these plans for our church life this summer.
On Wednesday, June 7th, we will celebrate our final Sylva First Wednesday of the year. Our church has worked hard to prepare food, brew coffee, serve and clean-up these many Wednesdays of the last nine months. Adults and staff members alike have worked overtime to provide for our children and youth. Until Wednesday, August 23, our kitchen will be dark and our facility will be slumbering. Sundays mornings will continue as they always have, providing opportunities for Bible Study and Worship. But in the void left by the departure of our midweek Bible Study and mission activities, we can now find new ways to learn, new ways to engage, new ways to grow.
I hope you will make room in your head, and on your calendar, to grow spiritually this summer. We are offering four seminar-fashioned times to learn about ourselves and one another with the help of the Enneagram—an ancient Christian tool for understanding personalities and our motivations in life. More than any other instrument in our tool box of Christian enrichment, the Enneagram provides the most thoughtful, Christ-centered approach to discovering what abundant life truly looks like. Summer is the perfect time to sample this kind of experience as it provides us with hammocks to be reflective in and thunderstorms to call us away from our gardens to contemplate the Almighty’s creation in you and me. This experience begins this Sunday afternoon at 4:30 PM. Join us.
Additionally, we are placing a premium on play, and on laughter, and on connecting with one another. We have scheduled family picnics, one in each of the coming three months to provide us the chance to get outside and to enjoy God’s creation in our beautiful mountains. These events, in familiar locations (East LaPorte Pavilion on June 11 at 4 PM, Waterrock Knob on July 16th at 4 PM and Deep Creek on Sunday, August 27 at 4 PM), will give us the chance to gather as the one big intergenerational family that we are. As a church family, we’re experiencing an extended season of growth, making it the perfect time to meet our newest members, become better acquainted with those who have been visiting with us, and to roll around on blankets with our slate of newborn babies.
As you’ve probably figured out, that still leaves some space in our summer calendar. Good! Use it wisely, choosing to host a Sunday School party or plan an adventure with people who sit on your pew. Drop by our Summer Explorers Camp and lend a hand while they play, romp and learn on our church campus. Volunteer in our week of Vacation Bible School we sponsor alongside our other Main Street Churches.
There are countless ways to serve, and to be connected this summer, but it will require you to take some initiative. In order to grow, you’ve first got to be planted. So, plant yourself in soil that will enable new seeds to germinate. Position yourself in a place where you can get good, direct sunlight so that you can reach for the source of all life. Space yourself out carefully so that the weeds of the world don’t choke the life out of you.
It’s summer in our mountains! And it begins now.