Summer Church: Advice From A Priest With Many Hats

Andrew Seaman on

If you ever see me walking around in my parish, particularly on days when it’s not too windy, you’ll likely be able to recognize me by my hat. I commonly wear a black fedora, rakishly tilted and often held on by my hand in a stiff breeze. Most people can spot me pretty easily by it as there are few these days that wear such a hat.

What people don’t often consider is that I actually wear two other hats, aside from the fedora.

The first is the one most are familiar with: the spiritual hat. I am a priest: the spiritual guide of the people I serve. I am called to guide and advise people on matters of faith, worship, and theological doctrine. To that end, I will now wear that hat, and give a little advice as we enter into the summer months.

Churches generally see low attendance during the summer. Many regular parishioners are away or otherwise engaged in the nice warm weather, enjoying whatever the brief respite from cold which pervades the rest of the year. Services still happen. Even if the priest is taking holidays there is often a deacon or licensed lay minister joyfully leading worship. But the number of people in the pews tends to be noticeably less than at other times (which, in some parishes, is already very low).

Does our spiritual life go on hiatus when the sun shines? Does a holiday from work, or a summer getaway mean that we need to getaway from church life as well? I would think not. Therefore, my advice is this: go to church this summer. If you’re still near home, keep going to church. If you’re away, find a local church wherever you are and attend that one. Not only will it sustain and enrich your spiritual life during the summer, but it will also encourage the spiritual life of those who lead or attend services every Sunday and feel the loneliness of those empty pews (and also give the joy of seeing new people visiting the church).

Okay, that’s one hat. Now for the other, lesser-known hat. This is the hat that many priests (myself included) feel less comfortable wearing. It’s the hat of church administration. Particularly, those aspects which involve finances. It’s uncomfortable because it often feels crass, worldly, and far removed from the spiritual calling to which we feel drawn. Nonetheless, it is an important hat, and one which we must wear. And wear without discomfort, for after all, our model is Christ, who faced questions and issues of finances boldly and without shame. So here is my advice:

Do not forget your church this summer. There’s a good chance things are tight right now. Winter is usually an expensive time, with heating costs and snow clearing. Insurance payments are probably due. Most churches are probably hoping that there was enough left in the bank after last year to cover costs until the fall, when donations usually take an upswing. But that’s not always the case. And even if it is, it’s probably a close thing.

And the bills still need to be paid. Each September most church vestries meet to have mild heart attacks as they look over the income/expense reports, trying to remind themselves that things will improve as they approach Christmas (assuming nothing goes wrong).

So please, take some time to make arrangements to keep your giving reliable throughout the summer. Help ease the worries and the burden your church may be facing. And, if you can afford it, why not give a little to support whatever church you’re visiting this summer? I’m sure it will help them still be there next year too.

So, there you have it. I’ve worn my two hats for this article. I hope they’ve inspire you to make a difference this summer, both for yourself and your church. Now I’m going to go put on my fedora, and hope it doesn’t blow off in the wind. God bless you!

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