The first recorded use of the phrase, “Busman’s holiday” was in 1893 in the UK when it was used to communicate the idea is that a busman, going off on a holiday, would most likely take an excursion by bus, thereby engaging in a similar activity to his work.
Today, we use the idiom in a consistent way, referring to our leisure-time enjoyment of an activity that we generally do as a vocation “in real life.”
In his blog “Clergy Confidential,” the Rev. Tim Schenck, Rector of St. John’s Church in Hingham, MA, wrote this week about the difficult time that he has visiting congregations during his summer vacation and how he is distracted in worship by the technical aspects of the service. He can’t help but conduct a mental review of what’s going on around him. I know just how he feels. And I don’t think it is necessarily bad. To read Tim’s blog, here’s a link: www.clergyconfidential.com/2017/06/sitting-in-pew-im-worst.html
I hope that when you go on vacation, that you go to a new church with your eyes wide open. Not to offer a blow-by-blow critique with a report to your rector upon arriving home (or, if you are the rector, to engage in this with pen and pad in hand, taking copious notes for your next vestry meeting,) but to notice with the gift of fresh eyes, several important aspects of life together as worshipping folk. I invite you to notice how you are greeted and welcomed; what the church looks, feels, smells and sounds like as the people gather for worship; how easily you are able to find the parking lot, bathroom, coffee hour, nursery; how you can see and hear during the service; if the instructions about how to receive communion are clear to you; where to gather for coffee or lemonade after church; and how you are/or are not greeted by the clergy or ushers on the way out, after the service. There is a lot that we can learn from each other.
And, share a good word. If the signage is exceptional…. if the premiere spaces in the parking lot saved for visitors delights you…. if the congregational singing is joyful and the children’s corner in the side aisle inviting… if the celebrant’s chanting is soulful and the sermon challenging… if the breathing space in the liturgy is generous and centering… if the free trade coffee afterwards is delicious… SAY SOMETHING. While we worship to the Glory of God- to and for God- to be told by a newcomer that something was received well, in the spirit of hospitality and with grace, is a joy.
Liturgy is not a performance, but an act of worship. Those of us in the Anglican tradition place a premium on the beauty, dignity and structure of our liturgy which offers grace and one way to encounter the Living God. To do liturgy “well” is not to be hung up on getting all of the details right, but to provide an atmosphere in which the distractions are kept to a minimum so that the experience can be transcendent. It is hard to ascend to communion with God if we are distracted by crooked altar hangings or a cipher in the organ. And, liturgy at its best offers a certain “flow” that brings us to the peak moment when we receive God in the hollow of our extended hands at the altar rail; joyful singing, focused praying, articulate preaching, and a dignified pace carries us to that point. Liturgy that flows is neither fussy nor lazy, and the celebrant and altar party play an important role as hosts of this sacred event.
The rest? The well- paved parking lot, fresh coffee afterwards, an easy-to-read bulletin and good signage? It’s not gravy. It is essential. The hospitality received in all of these things says that the community cares about its members and its visitors.
Now- what about those of us who go on holiday and stay away from church? God bless you in your rest-taking, adventure-seeking, Sunday-morning-lingering-in-the-garden-with-another-cup-of-coffee … for we all need that, too. There are gifts to be received in worshipping with our Episcopal neighbors in new places, and benefits to stepping way from our routine, as well. Heck, some of us might even decide to take the “ecumenical or interfaith option” and see how our brothers and sisters of different faith traditions gather on their holy day.
In the end, we seek to glorify God. That can be done at any time and in any place. But what joy to “come before his presence with thanksgiving and raise a loud shout to him with psalms.” (Psalm 95:2) Enjoy your summer adventures, my friends.