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Hallo again to all.

It is August now. By tradition, August is the usual month for residents of the Northern Hemisphere to take a holiday. Usually a holiday involves going somewhere that is very different from one's quotidian norm (save for busmen, of course). Not everyone wants to go on holiday; not everyone can afford to go on holiday; not everyone has the time to go on holiday. But despite all of the opportunities to say 'nay', there are holidays being made every year all 'round the Anglican world.

Maine licence plateIn some countries it's called 'taking a vacation'. In others, it's called 'making a holiday'. We are not aware of a noun equivalent to 'holiday-maker' in any place where it's called 'taking a vacation'. But the practice and tradition is worldwide.

Holiday travel is not random. People flock to holiday destinations, and many return to the same destination year after year. In the United States, the automobile licence plates for the state of Maine read 'vacationland', though of course some Americans do vacation elsewhere.

Holiday choices are somewhat culture-specific. Does half the population of Britain really go to Spain on holiday every summer? Most of them (it sometimes seems) to Mallorca? And it has been frequently noted that there are no French remaining in Paris during August because they are all off on 'les vacances'. If you take your holiday in a traditional destination, you will probably find a lot of people like yourself there too.

One reads frequently that such-and-such a place is 'dependent on the tourist industry for its livelihood'. That means that its economy and its way of life depend on holiday-makers who go there. In the high season, business booms. In the low season, businesses slow down or close. A restaurant or a retail shop or a taxi business or a hairdresser will be in full swing when the people are there and almost vanish after they return home. Until next year.

Holiday destinations also have churches. But normally those churches don't have members. In a town by the seaside that fills with visitors during the warm season and shutters itself during the cold season, the church will be the same way. Sometimes churches don't quite close in the off season. Churches such as St Mary Magdalene in Summer scheduleLake of Bays (Ontario) manage to stay open during the cold season but notes that 'The main event in the winter is the Snowball Festival every February.'

Sometimes a small holiday destination will have a church building that is shared by several denominations during the high season and closed in the off season. The Popham Chapel in Phippsburg, Maine, USA has an early Anglican service and then a later interdenominational service. The Diocese of Maine lists 20 summer chapels that are entirely Anglican churches in the summer and entirely closed in the winter.

A seasonal retail store is very similar to a year-round retail store. A seasonal restaurant is very similar to a year-round restaurant. But a seasonal church is startlingly different from a year-round church.

In a worship service in a seasonal church, most people are strangers. There are the regulars, the 'snowbirds', who return to the same seasonal chapel year after year and get to know one another. You can spot them because they greet by name during the peace. 'Jane, may the peace of the Lord be with you.' But usually the worshippers have never seen one another before. In a normal parish church there are a few visitors every week, who might or might not be made to feel welcome by the congregation. In a seasonal chapel, there is no congregation, it's up to you to make yourself feel welcome. The clergyperson rarely feels any sense of ownership of the church, and is absolutely not the shepherd of that flock. He or she is sometimes paid by the diocese, and is sometimes a volunteer there for the same reason that you are: a holiday.

We think that gathering for worship in a seasonal chapel is very close to the core of what a communion is all about. When you worship there, you bring with you your sense of what Anglican worship means, without any need to adjust to the norms of the host congregation. There is no host congregation. The prayer book and the officiant set certain norms and set the pace and define the flow of the worship service, but the details are up to you. The mixture of corporate and individual worship is, in our experience, unique.

See you next week. At home.

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Last updated: 2 August 2009

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