Whenever I'm chatting with folks about summer plans, I notice the tone of their response varies depending on whether or not they know I'm a Christian educator. When they don't, the conversation tends to be about trying to fit in vacations, taking day trips, what to do if COVID-19 necessitates canceling plans again . . . pretty standard stuff. But if they know that I work in Christian education, suddenly they're sheepish and apologetic. They want to be sure I know that they feel bad for missing worship to go on vacation.
But I think this is misplaced regret. While we are indeed valued members of the body of Christ as it exists in our local parish, we are also members of the body of Christ as it exists throughout time and space. There are so many ways families can engage with their faith when their summertime pursuits conflict with their usual worship schedules.
The simplest way is to go to church in whatever town you happen to be in. It needn't be intimidating—instead of going in with an attitude of "What if we don't know the prayers, or the songs, or when to stand/sit/kneel?," we can remember that nobody is born knowing all this stuff, and attend with a spirit of curiosity. See how many elements you do recognize—for those you don't, ask the pastor, Christian educator, or other church staff what they mean.
It is crucial to do our due diligence in planning for worship in other places, though—check out church and denominational websites for their basic statements of faith. Talk with your current pastor or Christian educator about the relationship other denominations have with your denomination. Visit websites to find churches that include and celebrate LGBTQIA+ people, BIPOC people, and people with disabilities. For LGBTQIA+ inclusion, Church Clarity is a good place to start; other resources may be denominationally specific. In the ELCA, Reconciling Works can help you find churches that are inclusive of LGBTQIA+ people; the Ethnic Specific and Multicultural Ministries Team and the ELCA Disability Ministry can provide assistance in finding parishes that do the same for BIPOC people and people with disabilities.
It's also important to maintain connections with the people in our home parishes who love and miss us. Post on social media about where you went to church and what you noticed. Reclaim the tradition of sending postcards, pray for the people in your church back home, perhaps even invite everyone going on vacation to pick up a small souvenir that reminds them of God's work in the world, then share about them in the fall. There are so many ways to bring our parish with us when we travel!
Lastly, simply be attentive to the many ways in which God is with you wherever you are. Are you noticing and talking to God in the joyful moments? The difficult ones? The mundane ones where you think a boring stretch of highway will go on forever? There are a couple of resources that can help bring a sense of wonder in summer activities while also establishing the routines kids (and often us adults) need to feel grounded and safe. One is Sparkhouse's Families Celebrate Summer cards, which provide a wide variety of activities that can be done at home and away and help bring faith into focus through summer activities and holidays. The other is Faith 5, a simple five-step process inviting families to check in about their day with God and one another and ask blessings for the day ahead. Whatever you choose to do, I pray your summer is a joyful one where you get to be and experience church wherever you go!