The other morning, I work up at my regular time and as I headed for the exercise bike in the basement, I stopped as I always to check the outside temperature. The thermometer told me that while it was slightly warm 22 (Celsius) inside, it was only 11 outside. Later, I was outside and the air had a fall feeling to it, that almost indescribable combination of coolness, a hint of moisture and a slight promise of frost in the next few weeks, overlaid with a touch of fog. I enjoy that fall feeling–but that morning, it bothered me because it meant that summer was coming to an end.
Now, I know that summer isn’t over and that here in Nova Scotia, we can and will get some really nice summer weather for another month or two but the reality from a work point of view is that summer is pretty much over–in a couple of weeks or so, the churches I serve go back to their regular schedule. Generally, for someone like me who likes schedules, that isn’t a problem. The predictability and regularity of the schedule helps a lot in ministry where the unpredictable and irregular keep popping up.
Nor does the end of summer upset me with its hint of colder things to come. I am not a summer worshipper. Hot, sunny days are nice but cold, snowy days with some wind and double digit wind chill are better. Shovelling snow beats mowing lawns any day of the week and twice on Sunday.
The reason that fall feeling bothered me was that I had planned on accomplishing some things this summer that are going to be pretty much impossible to accomplish in the short time remaining before the regular fall schedule starts up. Normally, I use the summer to accomplish a couple of things: to repay myself for all the extra time I put in during the regular church year and do some advance work for coming fall season.
I am a part-time pastor but ministry is full-time and can’t really be done with an eye on the clock. But normally, there are times when nobody cares if I goof off instead of visiting them or go for a long bike ride instead of working on the Bible study or skimp a little (or a lot) on sermon preparation so I can work on the preaching plan for the fall. The sleepy, warm days of summer are perfect for constructive goofing off and planning and preparation.
So, last June, I looked at my large accumulation of overtime hours and counted the days until summer when I could do something about that. Early in July, I was actually on track–we took a week’s vacation and then added another few days to work off some overtime. But that was as far as it got. The rest of the summer was hectic–illness that required pastoral care, special events that took more time to prepare and attend, pastoral visits that couldn’t wait until fall. The opportunity to take time off got pushed further and further into the summer, the time to prepare for fall kept getting pushed to next week–and then suddenly, I woke up one morning to the smell of fall and the calendar bluntly telling me that there was no more room to push ahead what I was planning on doing this summer.
I can, of course, tell myself that with the coming of fall, things will get back to a regular routine and then I can find some space to accomplish what I didn’t accomplish over the summer. And that will happen–my advance planning will get done, although advance planning might be one day before I actually need it. And the time off will come–we might get an early winter and have some snow days in November and I seem to remember once in the distant past when we actually has a snowstorm in October.
I am bothered–but not deeply bothered. I am doing what I am doing because I believe this is what I am supposed to be doing. While I might end the summer a bit more tired than I planned on being and a bit less prepared for fall than I planned on, I am still doing what I am supposed to be doing and enjoying the sense of still being able to respond to the God who loves me and calls me to this task. Eventually, I will find time to take time off and I will get the prep work done–and in the meantime, I am comfortable with where I am.
May the peace of God be with you.