A Sort of Homecoming

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!


5 Comments on “A Sort of Homecoming”

  1. Dave Clinton says:

    Does Panama Count as too far away?

  2. Cori Pursell says:

    Well, here’s a few; “Suit and Tie Sunday”, “Highheel Sunday”, “I Know Those Faces”, we get so Low Church in the summer it is good to have a chance to kneel at the prayers, see your hubby in a tie again and look for thatmatching pair of pumps living in the back of the closet. We get to rekindle old friendships and see how the children have grown. Glad to have everyone back.

  3. At St. Stephen’s Church in Edina, Minnesota, we call it “Welcome Sunday” and always sing a hymn by Marty Haugen: “All are welcome in this place.” The lyrics can be found here: http://bit.ly/cEl7xM

    In the land of Lake Wobegon, a significant number of folks retreat to their lake cabins for most of the summer months. Then, at the end of August and beginning of September, they return for the Minnesota State Fair, which is often called “The Great Minnesota Get Together.” Thus the theme for our ministries fair this Sunday: “The Great St. Stephen’s Get Together.” It will, of course, include food on a stick.

  4. Father Tim says:

    Hey, I’ve BEEN to the Minnesota State Fair. And I’m still recovering from cheese curd! Creative name — I wonder what would be the Boston area equivalent. Perhaps “Sweet Caroline Sunday.” Everyone named Caroline gets free communion.

  5. Anne says:

    Here in the south I’m tempted to go for “Beyond White Sunday.” Although it’s a fashion reference it also opens the door to think about diversity, not only in terms of who is in the pews, but who we seek. God is so not white.

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