By Laura Stephens-Reed
Fall is (blessedly) here! Those of us who accept that this is the best season of the year are reveling in pumpkins and pumpkin-spiced things and cooler weather and football and…I could go on, but I won’t. In the church, autumn is often looked toward as a quieter time because of fuller pews, the return to a more regular schedule, and the breather between the white and blue/purple stretches of the liturgical calendar.
September, October, and November are actually quite busy in most contexts, however, with the kickoff of the program year, budgeting, stewardship campaigns, and lay leader nominations, not to mention planning for Advent and Christmas. In the midst of all these tasks we are blessed with two gifts: World Communion Day (first Sunday in October) and All Saints’ Day (observed the first Sunday in November).
On World Communion Day we are reminded to think beyond our church’s property lines. Begun in 1936, this special Sunday invites Christians all around the world to recognize our oneness in Christ and to join with one another in a spirit of unity and peace. Our celebration of communion connects us not just with Jesus but with all believers across time and space who have partaken in this holy meal.
On All Saints’ Day we give thanks for the lives particularly of dear ones who have departed this earthly plane over the past year and more generally all those whose faith journeys have paved the way for our own discipleship.
Both of these Sundays urge us to think more broadly. What are our responsibilities to our neighbors, both local and global? How can we develop or strengthen relationships with Christians in other places? What are the legacies of those who have gone on to their heavenly rewards? How might we honor and build on them in order to be faithful to God’s call on our individual and corporate lives?
These are the kinds of questions are the bedrock for all the processes congregations undertake in the fall. What kinds of programming do we need to implement in order to explore these wonderings and live more fully into what we learn? How do we need to tweak our budget to reflect our responses to these queries, and how might we invite people in the pews to give toward those good ends? Who are the right people to guide us in fulfilling our obligations to others and in carrying forward the values of our forebears? What is the impact on our trek to the manger to witness the birth of hope if we allow this bigger thinking to take deep root?
This fall, stop and smell the pumpkin. And by that I don’t just mean the literal deliciousness of the autumn air. I mean, take time to observe World Communion Day and All Saints’ Day, and engage in the kind of mulling that truly leads to a harvest of righteousness.
Laura Stephens-Reed is Peer Learning Group Regional Director for Alabama, Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina. She also serves as a clergy coach and congregational consultant.