That’s how they cool kids say it, right? Or maybe that was like five years ago. Not sure. The word vacay, the clipped, cutesy cool version of vacation is entirely unfamiliar in my mouth. I’m not really in touch. I would be fooling myself to say I ever have been. I’m no regular to the most popular vacation destinations, but I have taken in a few when others have done the planning. And so it is now, I’m with my husband’s family, on vacay in a popular summer destination.
The gathering spans over a weekend and so being the good (and) Mormon family that we are we all troop over to the local Mormon chapel to get our church on (do you say that? Is that cool or am I trying too hard here?) Roughly two hundred other non-natives are there to do the same. Our group shuffles in moments just before and after the meeting’s opening. The pews are packed, and rows upon rows of metal folding chairs clang against the wooden floors of the cultural hall, continuously being set up as more and more couples, families and family group sheets worth of people come in together through the back doors, realizing their chance at a cushy seat in such a popular, populous place passed twenty-five minutes ago. On vacation, when you are trying to find the church and get ready when a portion of the group failed to pack or ran out of room for a typical Sunday outfit component, and don’t have a calling or meeting that demands our particular arrival time, the result can be relaxed Sunday Casual in dress and arrival. Flip-flops with slacks finely disguise a visiting stake president. Forgive us all our sins, fashion and tardiness infractions.
After the sacrament is passed, with the inclusion of raised hands for the gluten-free tray (this sweet ward is doing their darndest to accommodate the vast variety descending on their Sunday services), the meeting is half over. There are a lot of people, chairs are going up on the stage now, the lobby is no longer a pass through. A few speakers, some hymns most of us know from memory since there aren’t enough enough books to go around, and we’re done. At least a lot of the crowd. Families cluster to take a group photo or two while everyone is still clean and nicely dressed. The window in which everyone has a clean shirt on is very slim.
The lineup of minivans and SUVs with plates from a two states radius lining the front of the building and side lots begins to thin, rapidly. Not everyone is staying to pass the second half of the three hour block. The building seems somehow relieved to not be so far past fire code. Our group decides to stay. We’ve been advised to do that when we can. Adults sit down in the chapel for Sunday School and a dozen kids head to Primary. It’s jammed.
This little ward doesn’t have the numbers to staff a full Primary, only a fraction of the kids there are regulars. Two teachers for nearly forty kids is rough odds. Afterwards the kids report they didn’t learn much, but they did have chocolate. Relief Society and the Priesthood meetings are overfilled. People open the door to come in, don’t see an empty chair and close the door. Even with a reduced visitor load, it’s still more than the ward can carry through. The members are welcoming, but there are so many of us. What is the right way to attend their church and not overwhelm them? It’s hard to attend these wards and not feel like a freeloader. Hundreds of extra people show up each week, and take, requiring the accommodation and preparations of the small number of local members.
We all came in and set up extra chairs to squeeze ourselves into the gym, but who took those chairs down when so many took off after sacrament meeting? Who entertained and funneled chocolate to our primary kids for an hour and a half? Who were the blessed souls that wrangled a nursery full of strangers while we took off to other meetings? The more I thought about it, the guiltier I felt.
While visiting a similar vacation destination church, my dad spoke with a member who said,
We’re so lucky live in the sort of place most people only visit maybe once or twice in a lifetime, to be so surrounded with beauty, serving in a ward where we welcome others from all over each week isn’t a burden, it’s just an opportunity to serve.
I’m not sure everyone feels this way, I haven’t asked. It’s truly a beautiful gift to be able to gather with those who share in faith and worship each week, most any place I am. Whether it’s been in a familiar Mormon chapel or with a different denomination, I’ve felt of their spirit and been thankful for the opportunity to make my Sunday feel like a Sabbath. I just hope that my being there (and sometimes all two hundred plus of us extras) isn’t a burden detracting from some else’s Sabbath. I’d like to think some how I could contribute rather than just take. I’m not sure what church will be like where I next vacay, but next time I could put back hymn books, fold up some chairs, and if we send the kids off to primary, stick around to help see if they could use some help.
Do you say vacay? Or do you live in a vacation destination ward or branch, how do you feel about it? What is the best way to worship when you’re away from home?