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"Summer's a Time for Relaxing but Also Planting"



        Saturday morning, 9 a.m.  Having delivered my granddaughter to lacrosse practice, I’m sitting in the town park, watching all the activity around me.

        Along with the swarm of blue-shirted beginning lacrosse players, the park is alive with a children’s tennis class, coffee-cupped parents cheering them on, young children climbing, sliding and swinging on the playground equipment, a dad flying a kite with two young daughters. Everywhere I look, the sight and sound of happy children learning new skills and teamwork.

         I observed something similar last night at my granddaughter’s dance class. It was “bring-a-friend” night at the Irish dance school. Parents understood the recruiting ploy at work ... but that was unimportant to the girls.  All they saw was the chance to be with friends, introducing them (or being introduced) to a new activity.

         In each case, the activity didn’t just happen. It took planning, organization and leadership, with a clear focus on step-by-step skill development, starting with the fundamentals.

         I thought of other activities that require careful attention to skill-building and practice: learning to swim, learning to ride a bike, learning to add/subtract/multiply/divide, learning a musical instrument, learning a language. 

         None of these things happen automatically, all by themselves. They all require guidance, instruction, the passing on of acquired knowledge, and practice ... lots and lots of practice.

          A week from now, I’ll be hiking with my son in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. He’s challenged me to climb Mount Washington with him.  Needless to say, I’m focused on getting ready: getting my backpack and gear together and, even more, getting myself in shape.

          Later this summer, Barb and I will be moving to a new home — not too far from our current home, but one with more yard space for the grandkids.  Long before moving day arrives, there are lots of details to attend to: financial, legal, logistical.  It takes time and planning and preparation.

          Summer may be a season of rest and relaxation, but it is also a time for planning and preparation —reviewing and assessing the year gone by, making plans for the year ahead. 

           I spent part of last week drafting a job description for our new mission intern, who’ll begin work in September. All four positions have now been filled at Grace House, so it’s just a matter of time until we’re matched with an intern. 

           Based on my conversations with Grace House’s director, the Rev. Bridget McManus, I am fully confident that the right person will be assigned to help lead our Food Pantry/Friday Community and to help us connect with the 300+ college students who will soon be moving in right next door to the church.

           The task of drafting an actual job description for this position was immensely helpful and useful, forcing me to break the work down into clear and concrete steps. That will be valuable to our mission intern, as well as to all who will be part of the project.

            In partnership with Martha, Dennis, Carol and Christine, another block of time last week was devoted to worship planning for the year ahead. One of the items we discussed was the fact that no longer can we assume that even regular church-goers have a solid basic knowledge of the Bible (beyond the stories they may remember from Sunday School ... if, that is, they went to Sunday School).

           There is great need to help people see and appreciate the biblical story as a whole — and one of the best ways to do that is when we gather for Sunday worship. With that in mind, we have decided (starting this fall) to focus our Sunday worship on telling the biblical story sequentially, from start to finish.

            Last week brought two other times of planning and preparation: (1) a Tuesday evening picnic for our Stephen Ministers, coupled with some behind-the-scenes planning for an expanded and revised program in the fall; and (2) a Saturday afternoon picnic for young families in the church.

           Along with helping parents (and kids) get to know each other better, we also looked for ways to help University Church grow, especially by becoming more child-friendly and family-friendly. Several good suggestions came out of the conversation, and we look forward to implementing them this fall.

           I’m excited by all these new directions. I hope you are, too!  Summer may be a season of rest and relaxation ... but it’s also a time of planting seeds and watching to see what grows.