Summer Is Over So Go Back to Church. Sigh.

Does your church have a Rally Day on the calendar?

Kick-off Day? Back-to-Church Bonanza?

Whatever you call these fall Sundays, they are important events in the church calendar.

I know them well. I have spent 23 years organizing these types of events.

I recall the festive atmosphere we tried to cultivate with brightly colored fliers and stickers — kazoos for the kids! face-painting! — while promising something for the parents, too — choir is back!

There was always the lure of food.

Churches often do great outreach-y things at this time of year — collecting school supplies for kids who can’t afford them, or blessing backpacks. Avant-garde churches sometimes advertise the pet-blessing they’ll do next month, to give families a reason to come back.

This year I’m not serving a church so the Sunday was open on my calendar. No one needs a guest preacher on Rally Day.

Here’s the thing I noticed: It did not occur to me to attend church.

As I drove past them, I noted how unusually festive the churches seemed. Colorful banners abounded. I could have gotten a free hotdog at one place. BBQ at another. There were bouncy-bounces. One large church even had visible circus tents.

So why did I keep driving?

Because I could.

If you could have, you would have too. Admit it.

Sometimes I wonder why we all don’t just stop for a moment, and think about that.

Churches may have the best intentions in the world. But from the outside, it’s about as appealing as a car dealership.


After I wrote this, I had a case of writer’s remorse. Heaven knows, I don’t mean to sit in judgment on church leaders who are doing their best to serve God in a specific place and time. So a circus tent isn’t my thing! Maybe it speaks to others. Maybe Jesus loves the festivity!

I think what I’m processing here is my new “outsider” status — after a lifetime as a church “insider”. Being primarily an outsider is uncomfortable (but also helpful/important) for one simple and rather obvious fact: Churches look different from the outside than they feel on the inside.

What do you think?

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I'm an essayist, memoirist, and Presbyterian pastor. My books are both spiritual memoirs -- "Chasing the Divine in the Holy Land" and "Ruined."

I welcome your comments.

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