Ask just about any church like ours, and you’ll find that church life in the summer takes on a different rhythm than those hard-charging months during the school year. Many folks take vacations. Often, churches pause their Wednesday night gatherings for the summer. Committees and teams don’t meet as frequently. Sometimes even the choir takes a break for a few weeks! (But don’t worry – our red-robed leaders will be back in the loft oh so soon!) Churches submit to the rhythm of work and rest too, letting parts of our shared ground ‘lie fallow’ for a season, so that we can be renewed and ready for the year ahead.

This past Sunday’s study of “keeping sabbath,” reminded us again that rest and fallow seasons are good, right, and sacred. So take that time, and invite God to use it in a meaningful way for you. I know that vacations often stretch to include Sundays, and that there are Sundays that you and I will be away from our beloved community as it gathers for worship and study, fellowship and mission. Of course God is not merely contained within the round walls of our majestic sanctuary. And our television ministry makes it possible to take worship at First on Fifth with you as you go; so many of you tell me how you tune in faithfully at 10:30 at the beach, on the road, and with the grandkids!

But even as we find moments of meaningful rest, might I encourage us all to guard our habits of engaging deeply with our church family? Perhaps as you sit on the beach, you write encouraging notes to members of your Sunday School class. Or in place of weekly Wednesday night gatherings throughout the summer, you invite a different member or family to join you for a meal each week to get to know them better. Maybe you even increase your financial contribution to our church each week you are away (because as the old adage says, “the work of the church doesn’t take a vacation, even when you do!”).

Why nourish our connection to First Baptist even when we’re away? Because our beloved community matters, in all the changing seasons of the year and of our lives.

I’ll never forget the conversation I had with a couple at First Baptist, who shared with me that one of their life’s dreams was to have a space in the mountains to call their own. But even as that dream became a reality, they made a covenant with God and each other that their weekends away in the mountains would end early on Sunday morning, early enough to arrive back in Winston-Salem in time to worship with their church family.

This couple knows what I do — that there’s a unique, irreplicable spirit captured as our scattered church becomes a gathered community each week. I hear that same reflection from visitor after visitor at the door each Sunday, who speak of what they have experienced through First on Fifth. They remind me (lest I ever forget!) about what makes our congregation special. A sample from just last week: “I’ve never felt so welcomed in a church before!” “Worship grounded me in a way I haven’t experienced in years.” “This is the place I want to root my family.” You see, when the beloved community gathers in worship of our God whose Love brings us together, that’s when the magic happens!

Together in the work of Love,

Pastor Emily

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