Summer -- a time for relaxation and spiritual exploration

by Rev. Canon Stewart Murray, Incumbent at St Barnabas, Ottawa

Summer is fast approaching and after a long winter we are looking forward to enjoying the wonder and beauty of God’s creation in all its splendour that is summer in Canada. For many, summer is a time of holidays from school and work and of a slower pace of life. In our church communities many of the regular programmes and activities are reduced or put on hold until September. I remember well the lazy days of Summer as a child when summer seemed to be almost endless and the worries of homework and regular routines were put aside. This change of pace brings a gift of time and the opportunities to refresh our spiritual lives as well.  

An opportunity that I enjoy while on holidays is going to different Churches on Sunday mornings to share in the offering of the Eucharist.  I am always impressed by the diversity of churches and how each parish has made the Eucharist celebration a reflection of their particular community. Whether it be a service lead by a praise/worship team or the quiet said Eucharist of the traditional 8am service, one is touched by the faith and hope that the service embodies. I have found the welcome in every parish that I have had the privilege of worshiping with to be genuine and helpful. I have learned so much about the value of diversity in worship and to see how Christ makes himself known in the breaking of Bread in the midst his people. I have also enjoyed hearing homilies from both clergy and laity in my summer sojourn and been challenged and encouraged by what was shared.  

An opportunity that the slower pace of the summer months has given me is some time to explore different spiritual disciplines. I have always loved the daily offices of the Book of Common Prayer and struggled with adapting to the offices in the Book of Alternative Services, but during the summer I have used the BAS offices to help me become more familiar with their rhythm and format. This spring I was introduced by a good friend to the Anglican prayer beads or ‘rosary’. The Anglican prayer bead sets consist of thirty-three beads divided into groups. There are four groups consisting of seven beads, with additional separate and larger beads separating the groups. The number thirty-three signifies the number of years that Christ lived on the Earth, while the number seven signifies wholeness or completion in the faith, the days of creation, and the seasons of the .Church year. This aid to prayer will help focus my thoughts and reflections and I look forward to learning to practice this form of prayer this summer. I find it very helpful to explore this or similar disciplines that are outside my normal routines and experience, both to help me grow in my spiritual life and also to also experience what others have found of value in their faith journey. One of the gifts and challenges of our Anglican tradition is the diversity of expressions of faith and practice that are part of our identity.

The gift is the variety of expressions and not a forced uniformity that enables people to find a community that nurtures their walk with Christ; the challenge is that we have to avoid the temptation of saying my tradition and my experience must be the standard for everyone. Not everyone enjoys the music of a praise band, nor the choral music of organ and choir, yet they both are needed and are a valued part of our life together as a Diocese.

Finally, the more relaxed pace of the summer gives us the opportunity to reconnect with family and friends, to spend time with those we love and who love us. So often, in the business of our lives, we fail to simple enjoy being with those most precious to us and tell them of our love for them.