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Asking the Clergy: How does summertime expand worship services?

From left, Rabbi Jack Dermer of Merrick Jewish

From left, Rabbi Jack Dermer of Merrick Jewish Center, the Rev. Morgan Mercer Ladd of the Cathedral of the Incarnation and Erik Larson of Global Harmony House, the Raja Yoga Meditation center of the Brahma Kumaris World Spiritual Organization. Photo Credit: Tori Maidenberg Naaman; Lauren Colchamiro; Steve Pfost

A Long Island summer offers opportunities for worship beyond the sanctuary doors. This week’s clergy discuss how holding a service under shade trees or on a sandy beach can make for a special spiritual experience.

Rabbi Jack Dermer

Merrick Jewish Center

Many of the psalms that we pray during our Friday night Shabbat service speak about the beauty of nature and the majesty of God’s creation. During the summer months, we get to experience that sense of awe and wonder even more fully, when we take our service to Point Lookout Beach.

Throughout the year, we look forward to these warmer months when we can join together as a community on the beach, toes in the sand, and welcome the gift of our weekly Shabbat rest alongside the peaceful crashing of waves and picturesque sunset. Our summer service on the beach is also a great way for our community to welcome new members and build relationships. Suit jackets are traded for shorts, picnics are set up before the service, and the relaxed atmosphere gives us all a chance to let go of the stresses of the workweek and simply enjoy each other’s friendship and company.

Jewish tradition teaches that the ocean, in its wide blue expanse, serves as a reminder of heaven. Though each of the seasons is holy in its own way, we are truly blessed to live on Long Island where we can sing, pray and rejoice by the beach, strengthening our community and deepening our appreciation for the beauty of God’s world.

The Rev. Morgan Mercer Ladd

Minor canon for Family Ministries, Cathedral of the Incarnation, Garden City

In summer everything comes alive, and the world beckons us to come and explore God’s good creation. In our community, we answer this invitation by taking our worship outdoors.

Each summer Sunday morning at 9:15 we hold the Neighborhood Mass, an outdoor worship experience for the entire family (even pets). The name of this service is a way to recall that we are not just members of our individual neighborhoods in our geographic communities. Rather, we are members of God’s neighborhood, where everyone is welcome and where we join our voices with all of creation in praise.

This service is shorter than an ordinary worship service in order to honor the needs of both people and animals, but we still have plenty of time to read Scripture, sing, pray and share Communion together. People bring lawn chairs or camp out on blankets that spread across the lawn around the cathedral. And at the Neighborhood Mass, we remember that the holy and sacred ways we worship God can be playful, imaginative and beautiful, just as God intended.

Erik Larson

Teacher, Global Harmony House (Brahma Kumaris), Great Neck

The regular and dedicated Brahma Kumaris students come to a morning class every day at 6. The summer season does not affect attendance for those who like to listen to our daily reading at our spiritual class in Great Neck. However, weekend attendance can be diminished.

Summertime is when many students assist in the retreats that are conducted at Peace Village Learning and Retreat Center in the Catskills mountains. Each weekend sees a new group learning the basics of Raja Yoga meditation and how to act with elevated consciousness in their life and remember God. It is a chance for them to help run the retreats or help with the karma yoga (remembering God while performing a duty).

Summer is a wonderful time and many people like to enjoy it outside. We recognize this, so in early June we organized a spiritual family outing for 100 people to have our morning spiritual class on the beach at Orient Beach State Park. We made more noise in silent meditation than the numerous fisherman sharing the water. Getting up to leave Great Neck at 6 a.m., having a quiet spiritual class and then a breakfast picnic and sunshine made the day extra special. God can be your companion everywhere.

DO YOU HAVE QUESTIONS you’d like Newsday to ask the clergy? Email them to LILife@newsday.com. Find more LI Life stories at newsday.com/LILife.

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