Faith Works 6-4-16
Finding a way to worship on the road
To worship is to gather with others who share your hopes, your vision, your relationship with the divine, and to give thanks.
That thankfulness can be shown in song, in prayer, or in communion and offering, but it is best shared in community.
You can say a silent thank you to God, to the world, to the cosmos, but alone and on your own you're simply less likely to. Together, we are more truly, more deeply, more consistently thankful. So we gather together, to ask the Lord's blessing.
We need to be with others, but do you have to know who they are? Can it be with strangers, relatively speaking?
Aside from the usual existential qualification of whether we ever really know each other, whether anyone other than God can truly know us as we are, I'd argue that we can find our thankfulness improved, enhanced when it's practiced among fellow believers with whom you share little else other than your faith.
At home, people tend to know, and you can assume they're aware of what you are struggling with, and where you're grateful. And they can make assumptions, the nature of which you're likely to just let slide for the sake of not having to explain yourself.
On the road, with new faces and different voices around you, the thanks can be taken out of different places, new corners of your heart and soul. Your appreciation of what you'd earlier neglected can come out, even in words let alone through unfamiliar thoughts, when you're worshiping among newly met friends.
Vacation times can also be times for a new understanding of what your religious practice is. If you are away from home, don't try to be away from God. Ask Jacob, ask Ruth, ask Jonah – it doesn't work.
Perhaps you'll find a place of worship of your own tradition in a place you're going, and I suspect your church leadership can help you find where that might be if the internet doesn't make it show up quickly enough. Or if you're feeling truly adventurous on your vacation, just drop in somewhere. Again, that internet thing can help with times and addresses and usually even the standard garb . . . but if you're in a tourist area, the faith communities in those places tend to be even more easy-going than most about what to wear.
And there are often worship services organized and publicized in national parks with campgrounds, even some state parks; many popular tourism hubs have weekend devotional offerings designed with your particular needs in mind, either through nearby year-round churches doing special services in the summertime, or a program made available right in the heart of the attraction early on a Sunday.
The bottom line is that vacation time is no time to take a vacation from giving thanks. Like the whole point of taking time off, you can get a new perspective on your everyday life by living it in a new place, a different schedule, among strangers (as it were).
I think I speak for almost all worship leaders when I say we appreciate it when people bring us folders or bulletins or handouts from different faith communities. If you come home and say "hey, we have to change everything to do it like this church does it," then no, not so much, but if you have something to share about how someone else is structuring and sharing their Sunday (or other day) gathering, it can be a glimpse of possibility that wouldn't come into view any other way.
Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and pastor in Licking County; he's been to church in some pretty strange places. Tell him about your adventures in worship at firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow @Knapsack on Twitter.