A summer trip away from home provides a break from work and other responsibilities, but should spiritual life also go on vacation? This week's clergy discuss why it's good to stay in touch with God no matter where you roam -- and what you might learn about the people and places you visit.
Rabbi Andrew Warmflash, Hewlett-East Rockaway Jewish Center:
Since God never takes a vacation it seems obvious that we should continue to pray even when we are away. The harder question is whether we must attend a worship service in order to do so. In Judaism, synagogue attendance is highly desirable but not always strictly required since, with a few exceptions, most of the required daily prayers in our liturgy can be said individually at home. However, I think that those who don't attend services on vacation can miss out on a meaningful experience. One of things I have enjoyed most about some of the trips I have taken abroad has been the opportunity to pray together with people in synagogues around the world.
Jews, wherever we live, mostly say the same prayers, but every community has its own flavor. I remember praying at a synagogue in Jerusalem where they distributed lavender whose sweet fragrance helped us usher in the Sabbath. In Paris, I prayed in a synagogue where the sextant wore a three-cornered hat, and congregants greeted one another with kisses on both cheeks. In Prague, we participated in a fascinating Torah discussion carried out simultaneously in several languages over a delicious lunch. The experience of attending these synagogues and others here in America and around the world has allowed me to experience some of the wonderful diversity of Jewish life, and given deeper meaning to the words said monthly in synagogues around the world: "All Israel is one fellowship."
The Rev. Katrina Foster, D.Min., pastor of St. Michael's Lutheran Church in Amagansett; and Incarnation Lutheran Church in Bridgehampton:
When my family and I are on vacation, they ask me whether we can stay home on Sunday and read the newspaper and have a bagel with cream cheese instead. But we go to church for a few reasons. First, wherever Jesus went, he worshipped on his holy day. Second, it's great to experience other worshipping communities. And third, faith is never on vacation. Worshipping is a way to give thanks to God for the luxury of a vacation, and to meet fellow Christians in different settings. Across the country, in places where you wouldn't expect it, there are beautiful churches. People visit baseball stadiums all over the place just to see the different architecture, and although a church isn't quite the same as Yankee Stadium, it's still good to visit a new church if only to get out of our comfort zone.
We have visitors at our church in the Hamptons every Sunday almost year round. We always have an influx of people in the summer, and it's so nice to know that people outside the area survived the snow. I always say at the end of the service -- especially if there are visitors -- everybody is free to stay after the service for the best free coffee east of the Shinnecock Canal. And when members of my own congregation go away on vacation, I urge them to go to church because Jesus never takes a vacation from you, so be sure to say "hi" while you're away.
The Rev. Thomas A. Cardone, S.M., chaplain, Kellenberg Memorial High School, Uniondale:
God's presence is with us wherever we go and especially when we vacation as a family. The family is the first church where Mom and Dad are the first images of God to their children. The dinner table, where there is a common meal and a sharing of the joys and sorrows of life, points to the Mass and the Eucharistic people of God.
As Christians, we believe that it is important to vacation in order to be renewed and rejuvenated. If our goal is to be a truly integrated and whole people, we need God every step of the way. God does not vacation away from us, nor do we vacation away from him.
There is a tendency in our culture to place recreation and vacation before relationship with God, with others and with our very selves. We often forget that our strength lies not in our independence from God but our interdependence on him and those who really love us.
Going to mass is an opportunity to pray, to enter into a spirit of self-forgetfulness and gratitude and so be renewed through entering the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. When we go to church on vacation, we encounter new people, see new faces and share in a communion with those with whom we are unfamiliar. What is the body of Christ? The body of Christ is all of God's children, and once again we recall that we belong to a community that is greater than any of us will ever be.