Summertime and church. My experience would tell me that most people find those two things incompatible. I say that with a sense of humor, of course, and while I often wonder where everybody went on those summer Sunday mornings, I also get that folks need to play and to re-create. I support that, by the way—the missing of church (occasionally) to get out and enjoy this natural playground of a world in which we have been placed. I support it because taking time to play is important not just to our physical selves, but to the way we live the rest of our lives. There is something regenerative about making time to break the routine (even of worship) that lends perspective and new energy to our individual and shared lives.
I think it is important also to spend time in leisure because of its sabbath nature. For sure, Sundays are important to our lives. Setting aside time for worship and for community is vital to how we are in the world the other six days of the week. We need to pray in community, to be reminded of our role there, to reconnect with other praying souls, and be fed by something other than the weekday buffet of less than spiritual food. But sabbath has a double meaning—it means to pray and to play. To have a true sabbath day is to get down on one’s knees as an intentional act of worship and to get out into the world’s sandbox, so to speak, and to remember what is it like to move and to wonder as playfully and freely as a child.
I once heard a quotation attributed to a French writer who said “People who never laugh aren’t serious people.” I love that for the challenging notion that without laughter we aren’t fully human. From different words I have coined a similar idea: “Grown ups who don’tplay aren’t really adults.” What I mean by that is that we can hardly call ourselves responsible and mature people when we do not take the time to nurture our inner child by engaging playfully in this world. So if you think you hear your priest saying that is it o.k. at times to miss church so that one can play, then you heard correctly. If that sounds strangely anti-church, then consider for a moment that playing is one of the most godly things we do, even—or maybe especially—as grown ups.
I wish you all a wonderfully playful and joyful summertime. I hope that God blesses your leisure time by giving you new life and showing you new possibilities for life. I hope that you will intentionally ditch church a few times (but won’t get carried away) and that you will do so with a free pass—that is, guilt free. I also hope that while you are playing you will continue to pray for your church community and to keep us in your thoughts. And I hope that you will play responsibly as good stewards remembering that even though we need to play, our work in the world always continues.