by Phyllis Meshel Onest, M.Div.
The summer will be upon us soon and I'm sure we're thinking about vacations, relaxing, fewer or no car pools, lots of sunshine (very important for those of us in Ohio and other parts of the Midwest), a slower lifestyle, ball games, visits to the zoo and amusement parks, short trips to places of interest, working around the house, gardening, summer sports leagues, and more.
It seems to me that regardless of the time of year, we all have much for which to thank God, and as His creations, we need to worship our Creator. As you begin to fill the calendar with activities, try not to let Sunday Liturgies fall by the wayside! For those whose parishes conduct Church School during Liturgy, this is the time to help our children learn to worship and reinforce what was learned "about" worship in class. For all of us summer should be less stressful which should, in turn, enhance our participation in Liturgy. Some parishes even go to earlier "summer hours" so that families can have more of the day for summer fun. This is also a good time to visit nearby sister Orthodox parishes.
Vacation from God?
For some families, though, summer means "a vacation from God". This is a strange concept for me, which you would probably expect me to say, given my education and ministry in the Church. I'm sure my children sometimes wished that our family could take "a vacation from God." I like to think of my summer vacations as an adventure, and visiting Orthodox churches is part of my adventure. The different types of architecture, icons, music, vestments, etc. still point to a church with the same beliefs. Orthodox worship is timeless, regardless of the time zone, continent, or jurisdiction in which it is offered.
My girls - Michelle age 19 and Maria, age 16 - can tell you all kinds of stories about the different Orthodox churches we visited while on vacation. Despite their complaints, I believe that they have a better understanding of the Orthodox Church's variances in liturgical practice and ethnic backgrounds. We have always been warmly welcomed, and inevitably discover that we know someone in common.
Whenever we travel we take our copy of the Directory of Orthodox Parishes & Institutions in North America published by Orthodox People Together. [Available for $8.95 from OPT, Box 1128, Torrance, CA 90505-0128; Tel./Fax (800) 747-9245.] It lists all Orthodox parishes, regardless of jurisdiction. You can also check with your parish priest for the Orthodox Church nearest your vacation site.
Finally, Summer Liturgies give us the opportunity to integrate the information shared in Some Things You Should Know While in Church by Fr. David Barr. Check it out. There's lots to learn about "Church Etiquette" and Fr. David has given us insights that will also enrich our vacation visits to Orthodox parishes.