A Sort of HomecomingPosted: September 9, 2010
There’s no good name for it. The first Sunday of the vaunted Program Year, that is. For most churches around the country that Sunday is this weekend. Sunday School begins, the choir returns, lots of people show up, and there might even be a special all-parish brunch following the late service. But no one has come up with a good name for it.
Many churches go with “Kick Off Sunday.” There’s even a popular Facebook group called “Crash Your Local Episcopal Church: Kickoff Sunday.” And I guess that works in the sense that it coincides with the first Sunday of the NFL season. Kick off at church with communion and then kick off football season in your recliner with a beer. Cue the Gary Glitter.
At St. John’s we’ve traditionally used “Homecoming Sunday.” That’s not bad. And with the number of people who go to vacation homes for the summer it’s pretty accurate — they are quite literally “coming home.” It certainly beats the similar but far worse “Welcome Back Sunday.” That’s pretty much admitting that God goes on vacation in July and August and that no self-respecting church goer would dare be seen in church — whether or not they’re in town. Which goes with the unfortunate mentality that Episcopalians are the only ones God trusts enough to take the summer off.
But the worst phrase ever — popular in some protestant churches — is “Rally Sunday.” All I can think of is NASCAR: “Gentlemen, start your programs.” Perhaps it makes sense if you hold church on the infield at Daytona but anything less than that is unwarranted.
The rock band U2 recorded a song in 1984 called “A Sort of Homecoming.” The title – and the song – tends to run through my head this time of year. The line itself comes from the Romanian-born Jewish poet Paul Celan who wrote that “Poetry is a sort of homecoming.” You can watch and listen to it here.
And at many churches, that’s really what this Sunday is: a “sort of homecoming.” I doubt anyone went too far away this summer and most of us never really left, at least emotionally. Even accounting for vacation time it’s important to remember that God never takes a vacation from us.
I’m looking forward to Sunday. It’s always full of energy and anticipation and hope — kind of like the first day of school. And wherever you worship I hope that you’ll come home to the love of God that permeates your church; that you’ll come home to worship in the beauty of holiness; and that you’ll come home for the programs that enrich your lives. But most importantly I hope you’ll come home because Jesus bids you welcome.
And, of course, if you have a better name for this Sunday, by all means pass it along!