Every year on the Sunday closest to July 4th, I feel a little disappointed to see not only a “summertime” attendance, but indeed the even lower “summertime July 4th Vacation” attendance. I tend to think that there are few things that call for greater thanks to God, and indeed greater consideration of our responsibilities and challenges, than the freedoms that define us. While cookouts and fireworks are wonderful, they are a pale measure of gratitude and celebration when compared to what our worship is supposed to be about.
I’m not speaking critically, mind you. I tend not to think about this much until the days before the Sunday nearest the 4th, by which time I and all my parishioners and friends have already set their vacation schedules. By the time many families start thinking about worship that Sunday, the July schedule has taken on a life of its own.
And so it occurred to me yesterday, as I cased out the bcp for an appropriate Memorial Day collect, that one way to honor this day of observance is by treating it like a “save the date” reminder to include church in your plans for the week of July 4th.
I don’t mean change your vacation plans. I simply mean to start asking questions like, “Could we do the early service on July 6th and then start traveling? What churches have services in our destination? If none of the above works, might my priest be able to suggest some devotions for my family that can help us to remember our freedoms as a great gift from God?”
Nor am I suggesting that we confuse a national holiday with a church feast day. I’m simply saying that if the regular rhythm of our worship life is supposed to bring our whole lives before God, then it doesn’t make sense to me to have extra hotdogs but skip communion.
I don’t think the problem of low-july-4th attendance is one of thanklessness. I think it has more to do with the rhythms of our work lives. But if few folks remember to church it up on the week of July 4th, we lose the important opportunity to remember who gives us our freedoms, and how we are challenged to live up to them.