Back in the mid-1990s, when I attended my first UU congregation, my ex-partner and I arrived in mid-June. It wasn’t a sure thing that we would find our spiritual home, but within just a few minutes, definitely by the end of the service, we knew we had. Then, to our utter surprise, we heard the announcement that this was the last service until September. I looked at her and she looked at me: What?!? How could that be? We just arrived!
There is this strange cycle in UU congregations – not all of us (in fact, fewer and fewer), but there’s something commonly called, “the church year.” Typically the church year goes from the Sunday after Labor Day through the third Sunday in June, which is suspiciously similar to the academic calendar.
For those TUSians who have been a part of this congregation for a long time, you remember that there was a time when TUS closed down completely in the summer, though families did gather at each others’ homes throughout the summer months.
Now we have services on Sunday mornings throughout the whole year. The “church year” doesn’t mean what it used to. In the summer, our Sunday Services Committee is responsible for ensuring that there is worship, inviting TUS lay folk or outside guests (sometimes lay folks, sometimes ministers), to fill our pulpit. There are far fewer minister-led services in the summer, though this summer I will lead one in July and one in August.
What else is different about the summer months at TUS? We have healthy numbers attending Sunday morning, but generally they are fewer. There’s a more casual, perhaps even more out-of-the-box quality to Sunday mornings. We have more guest musicians, allowing more musical variety.
This summer we intend to have child care on Sunday mornings; there will be no formal religious education classes (see more info on page 3). Given the summer schedule of families and declining use of summer RE, we are going to deploy our RE resources differently this year, allowing or Director of Education to focus on strengthening the program that will start up again in September.
My presence at TUS shifts, too. From June 19-25 I will be in New Orleans for the first at Ministry Days (where UU ministers gather for two days of associational meetings), and then at General Assembly (see article on page 8). Given all the controversies and changes, hopes and cocncerns, this year’s meetings will be electric! I’ll come back for a week at TUS, then will take a combination of study leave and vacation until August 10th or so.
Some of that time I will spend here in New Jersey. I will also be in the Pacific Northwest, where generations of my family are rooted. This summer I’m also super thrilled because I will be preaching at a wide variety of UU congregations: in Eugene, Oregon, Seattle, Washington, All Souls NYC, Summit NJ, and Springfield, Massachusetts. And, as I mentioned above, I’ll preach at TUS on July 2 and August 13.
No worries: while I am far away, we will have coverage in case of any pastoral emergency.
Since May and June are very busy times in the life cycle of a UU congregation and a UU minister, I am looking forward to the elongated break and the chance to replenish my reserves. Still, it will seem strange to not be around as much. Come mid-August, I’ll let you know what it’s like.
I am blessed to be on this journey with you,