Sunday, July 3, 2011
In all honesty, this is a fairly new development in my life - we didn't attend on vacation when I was a kid, and we didn't early in my marriage. We went through a phase where we always seemed to forget our church clothes when we visited the in-laws (much to their chagrin). But for the past 10 years or so, we have made an effort to attend wherever we are gone over a Sunday. It has become part of our expected family tradition. And since we are clever, we have our boys attend at times with no tie, or wearing tennis shoes, or jeans - despite their best efforts to forget their church clothes.
It a has been a good thing. Personally, I feel it hard to teach the incredible importance of the sabbath, and taking the sacrament weekly, if I am willing to wave it off to hit the beach, or to sleep in, or to get early admittance into Tomorrowland.
Today we attended a ward that was probably at 800% normal attendance because of vacationers. You could see the stress on the deacon's faces, and the smile on the bishop's.
When we first walked in, I was a little put back. The usher that was passing out the programs was greeting people as they entered the chapel. I said hello and reached out my hand for a program. He promptly took my hand, shook it and welcomed me to church. I still stood there with my hand out. He looked at me again and smiled - and just stood there.
Could I have a program?
Are you a visitor?
Is there a problem?
Not at all. Here you go.
I took my hard-won program and went to my metal chair in the overflow. Did I do something wrong? Are they experiencing a ward budget crisis? I guess I didn't really NEED a program - I am just curious as to how other wards do things. So, I settled in, a little put off, and prepared for the meeting.
Most of the time I visit other wards, it is on Fast Sunday, and we attend Testimony Meeting. I was thinking about it, and it mostly has to do with the holiday calendar. Memorial Day, 4th of July, and Labor Day all fall around the first of the month, and often the next Sunday is Fast Sunday. I like it. It seems you have a much better opportunity to get a feel for the saints in that congregation than if you are listening to a High Councilor or some other assigned speaker. Sometimes you learn that the congregation is made up of really interesting people (read crazy).
Today, I found that the saints in this congregation were wonderful. The testimonies were powerful. Nobody went "off the rails." I felt like we were at the right place at the right time. We left feeling good, conversing about some of the testimonies we heard.
Over the past ten years I have attended church on five continents in a half-dozen languages. I have learned that the Lord's church is the Lord's church. Everywhere. Whether the nuances and procedures are the same or not, it doesn't matter. The Spirit of the Lord shines through when good-hearted people bear testimony of the truth - regardless of the wealth or poverty, language, culture or legacy of the people.
It was a good day.
Oh... We didn't stay for block. We aren't there yet. I do have a small concern that if we were to stay all three hours, while on vacation, it just might be the final push that would result in me being translated. I feel that this would be a hardship on those people left behind who are dependent on me, and I think that would be unfair.