©Kirton News 2018
The View from the Vicarage
The months of July and August traditionally marks the heart of British summertime and brings with it not only a change in the weather, but also a change in the way we experience the world around us. The summer season I believe gives us a wonderful opportunity to discover new and revitalizing things about ourselves, if we use summer for relaxation.
The liturgical life of the church has always been firmly governed by a sense of times and seasons. One of the most disconcerting things about modern travel is the way that it can transport us from one season and climate to another within so short a space of time that our own bodies and inner sense of rhythm become completely disorientated. One day I am in a British midsummer, the next I am in an Australian midwinter, we know this as one of our sons lives in Australia. The Church and her liturgy tells us that times and seasons do matter. Our bodies are attuned to the onset and passing of seasons of the year, our whole cycle of life as Christians is dominated by liturgy and sacrament – the embodied signs of what it means to be worshippers of the God made flesh.
One of the great delights of an English summer lies in being able to shed layers of clothing and get rid of waterproof clothes. In my experience when its warm and sunny even our behaviour changes: people sit in parks picnicking over lunch breaks, we even drink our morning coffee outside, sit at pavement cafes instead of huddling indoors. Summer becomes a time for reconnecting with the the natural light, the greater opportunities for communal living afforded by being able to sit out of doors for longer, watching children playing and people talking outside instead of sitting enclosed. There is a sense of a general relaxing into the present, a willingness to linger longer over meals or even chance meetings with friends. Summer takes us into holiday time, when in families the rhythms of work change, children and adults may spend more time together, positively or negatively as such an experience may be. Holidays can take us into different environments, give opportunities for exploration and expansion of horizons.
But if our pale and white bodies come alive in summer they can also become problematic. One of the interesting themes in many women’s magazines, as soon as Easter is over, is the offer of radical diets to enable us to look good in swimming costumes and more revealing clothing. If summer signals the liberation from woollies and heavy winter clothing, it also signals the threat of being seen with the bulk of winter still upon us – all the extra pounds we out on over the winter. Every aspect of our winter body becomes a potential fashion threat. I ask then, what does it mean to have a spiritual approach to summer that copes with and challenges the advertising power of the fashion and diet industries, filled as they are with the message that our bodies are only acceptable if they conform to a standard of beauty achieved by a few! Perhaps summer might be a time to relax and learn to thank God just for what is, here and now, for the flowering and fruition of our own bodies and lives, whatever their stage and shape.
The God I worship day by day is a God who is with us always to the end of time and is certainly not limited to any season. I know and believe that God is both within and beyond our times and seasons, but invites us in the summer, perhaps more than at other times, to really enjoy what summer brings in a deeply spiritual sense. This includes our total selves, the other person, whether family, friend or stranger and the earth in full flower and fruit as the power of the risen Christ liberates all creation from bondage. It may even be a time to try Church on a delightful summer Sunday morning!