Today dawned with a slight fog settled across the Merrimack Valley, enveloping everything for miles around in a moist coolness that felt almost cold for an early, summer day. I had an errand to make to a nearby town, something I could accomplish and return to Methuen with plenty of time for my second cup of coffee at my kitchen table.
Two hours later, sitting in my office, writing, I see the sun breaking through the scattering clouds, shining first like a spotlight on the dogwood tree in our front lawn before spreading to the memorial garden, front drive, and across the street. The deep blue sky feels insistent today, resolutely determined to make a stand against the several-days-running cloudiness and rain we have had. The sunshine and warmth are welcome. Happily, forecasters predict warmth and sunshine for several days coming. Perhaps the seemingly reluctant summer of 2019 has finally arrived in northern Massachusetts, as it has already done in points south and west of us.
I’ve not always welcomed the warmth. Having grown up in a very hot place, I longed to live in a cooler climate. I gladly take winter’s cold and snow in balance against endless summer heat. Not everyone agrees with me in this. In a previous church, located in a warmer place, at the end of a long string of hot, summer days, I once had a parishioner argue against the use of air conditioning. It was not an easy sell! “Hot days are a gift,” she asserted. “They force us to slow down, sit still, and wait for the wind to stir. When summer’s in full swing, we’re not meant to make any more effort than to turn the page of a book, or get up to fetch more ice for our tea.”
It took me several years to learn to slow down in the summer. Or, rather — to learn to take time to smell the roses (and the ocean, and the mountains, and the forest). Living in a place with longer winters made me realize the necessity of savoring the longer, warmer days. I schedule time each week to enjoy our New England home and encourage you to do the same.
At First Church Congregational we’re intentional about slowing down a bit in summer — but not too much! Our slow down only really happens in the month of July. That’s when committees, ministry teams and the Board take the month off. We move worship to Wednesday nights, freeing up the weekends. The choir is on break for the summer, and this year, Sunday school is taking a break, too. Chapel School is closed for the summer, so office hours are limited to Tuesday and Thursday mornings. Our building, usually filled day by day with lots of activities and sounds, grows quiet and still.
But come August, we’ll be back at it! Monthly meetings resume. The annual MAN Back to School Project will be completed, from finalizing organizational work, set-up day on August 16th and “Mall Day” on August 17th , when everything gets distributed to kids from our neighborhood. We’ll set plans in motion for “Welcome Sunday” and our annual cookout on September 15th . In August, the Board, committees, ministry teams and staff will each set goals for the coming program year. Additionally, the Board hopes for a new staff member for Christian Education to be hired (the search committee is hard at work!), filling the newly created “Designated Term Minister for Family and Community Life” position. Chapel School will move toward their opening day on Thursday, September 5 th . Monday through Friday office hours will resume after Labor Day.
Enjoy your summer! I’ll look forward to seeing you on Wednesdays in July, and on Sundays in August. And come September, get ready! We’re going to have a remarkable fall this year!
See you in church!
Written by: Rev. William D. Ingraham
also available in the July 2019 Beacon