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A Season of Rest and Need
Rev. Lois E. Van Leer, Minister
Woodinville UU Church (WA)
Archived 8/9/2012
A Season of Rest and Need
Rev. Lois E. Van Leer
Woodinville UU Church, WA

 Years ago I asked a colleague where the culture of UU clergy vacating the pulpit and many churches essentially closing their doors in the summer came from. I was told that it came from New England when nearly entire congregations there left the heat and humidity of the cities to take up residence in cooler climates like Maine. But here is the clincher: they often took their minister with them! Now, there are many ideas of hell but one of them surely must be going on vacation with one’s minister. And vice versa.

PNWD Board President Elton Hall provides a report from our 2012 District Assembly in Anchorage, AK. Read all about it, on the District News Page!
And - click here to see PNWD 50th Anniversary recollections, greetings, photos and other hidden treasures.
What seems to have survived from this tradition is the mindset that we don’t “do” church in the summer. Programs wind down, religious education classes often see reduced numbers of participants, attendance of services is less than the other months of the year, committees may or may not meet, clergy may not be in the pulpit, and many persons or families take church “off” from the middle of June through August.

Now, I am all for summer and what our contemporary culture has defined it as: a time for vacation, rest, play, unstructured time, a reprieve from the rest of the year. I am one of those clergy who takes a full month vacation in the summer. But I am also keenly aware that rather than follow liturgical seasons in UUism, we follow the academic seasons. In other words, we function for the most part as if church is only 10 months of the year, assuming that everyone’s life is attuned to the rhythms of the academic year. But what about those whose lives do not follow that rhythm or who have at the most, two weeks of vacation a year? What about the person who comes seeking our faith tradition and its gifts and finds our doors closed? Human need and yearning is something that exists 24-7, three hundred and sixty-five days a year and then some.

How do we balance the call of summer with the invitation of long days and light to live in with keeping the flame of our chalice burning? What about the rejuvenating power of resting, taking space, resetting one’s life by vacating its patterns, and finding ways of renewing? What about the lesson I relearned last summer when my time away from congregation taught me that sometimes, for me to be present with and to them as their minister, I must go very far away from them?


I think the answer lies in the wise words of a parish nurse I knew. When a parishioner said to her that she had lost her faith, she replied, “Then I will hold your faith for you until you can find it again.” Isn’t that what we do for one another in beloved community: hold the faith for one another both in sorrow and in joy? Sometimes we hold the chalice flame and keep it burning and other times, someone else must hold it for us until we can return to it.


As we approach summer, let us enter it with a two-pronged awareness: it is a season of play, rest, and renewal as well as a season that knows no reprieve from human need. Let us take turns in this and every season of holding one another’s faith that the chalice flame may burn continuously bright.

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