This is a repost of the opening article from today's parish newsletter, The Church Mouse. To read the current or other recent issues in their entirety, click here.
This Sunday, the Peace took a little longer than usual. Every week, in the middle of the service, we greet each other with a sign of God’s peace. After kneeling to confess our sins and hear the assurance of God’s absolution, we stand and shake hands or hug our neighbors and say to them, “Peace!” Most of us stick to a familiar path of friendliness, turning first to our spouse and then to our neighbors on either side before spinning around to greet those on the pews behind and in front of us. This week, though, people were all over the place, stretching across the aisle, walking all over the nave, laughing and talking as they went.
Usually, the Peace runs out of steam after a minute or so, but this Sunday I had to work in order to corral the worshippers and bring us back to order. I felt that the congregation was resisting my attempts to carry on with the service, and, in that moment, it occurred to me that many of us had not seen each other for a while. Summer is winding down. School is about to start (or has already started for some). We are back from the beach or the lake or wherever we have been hiding out for the last two and half months. If we are not ready for the rhythm of the fall semester to begin, we are at least willing to admit that it is fastly approaching. All of that means that it is time to reconnect with our church.
For the past two weeks, I have seen several unfamiliar faces in church. More to the point, I have seen some faces that I recognize but have not seen in several months—maybe even longer. I believe that there is something about the renewal of the fall schedule that awakens within us a desire to reboot. Beginning in August, we embrace routines that we have forgotten—earlier bedtimes, family dinners, exercise routines, coming to church. We see more visitors and wayward parishioners in August than any other time of year. I think that reflects a desire to start over and try again. Even the known trouble-maker starts with a clean slate on the first day of school. Perhaps coming back to church will remind you that, as Christians, we live with a clean slate—a God who is always ready to forgive and welcome us back.
Now is the time to come to church. Now is the time to rejoin a parish family that has missed you. Whether it has been two months or ten years, let this fall be a time for you to reconnect with St. John’s. Think about your routines and ask yourself what has been missing. Is this the right time to give your spiritual well-being the attention that it needs? How might you use this season as an opportunity to reengage your faith?
Over the next few Sundays, we will offer a series of events designed to welcome all of us back to St. John’s. This week (8/18) is the annual Blessing of the Backpacks, when we pray for all of our students and school teachers and give them a tag to affix to their backpacks as a reminder of our prayers. Next Sunday (8/25) is Rally Day, when we unveil the fall schedule and invite everyone to consider how they might become more involved at St. John’s. Then, on September 8, we begin our fall programs in earnest with worship, children’s church, Sunday school, and an afternoon Parish Picnic. Make plans to join us—not only for the next few weeks but also for the whole year as you consider how you might reboot for the months ahead.