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First Things, July 2014

July 9, 2014

In Unitarian Universalism, June is the end of the church year. Our tradition follows the pattern set by the academic year: the church, like a school, starts in September and ends in June. The academic year, in turn, follows the agricultural year. Farms need lots of workers during the growing season of late spring and summer but need fewer workers during the colder months when the farm isn’t doing too much. From fall to spring farm workers can take time off to go to school, or to go to church.

At some churches, so many church members would need to work on the farm during summer, or take summer vacations, that the church would simply close between June and September. That pattern is still reflected in the schedules of many of our ministers who take long summer vacations and “study” months in July and August, and then return to the pulpit in September.

Other religions don’t have this gap. In Christian churches, “Advent” (the month before Christmas) is the end of one year and the beginning of the next. In Jewish congregations during the fall holiday of Simchat Torah, the reading of the last portion of the Torah is immediately followed by flipping back to the beginning of the Torah and starting the annual cycle again.

The Unitarian Universalist year has a break from the Sunday after General Assembly to the Sunday after Labor Day. The old year is finished. But the new year hasn’t begun. I call this Ordinary Time, borrowing a phrase from the Christian Church. But you could also call it un-ordinary time. It’s different. It’s special. It could be extraordinary. I hope you have an extraordinary summer.

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