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Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Add Some Spice to Your Vacation: Go to Church

When on vacation, I'd like to recommend that you make it a practice to attend church. I understand it's not always possible and may not work for a number of reasons, but if you can do, I think you might be surprised at what it adds to your experience. There are some good reasons to make church part of your vacation experience. Beyond the basic sermon that you can already imagine -- it's the Sabbath day, we need to put the Lord first, He expects us to worship regularly, their are spiritual and other blessings that come through sacrificing our own desires to worship the Lord -- I'd like to suggest that attending church is also a wonderful way to experience an intriguing aspect of the local region and its people. In a foreign country, meeting with fellow Latter-day Saints can be especially meaningful, even if you don't understand the language. Simply showing up at a church service has resulted in some of my favorite moments of international trips, resulting in experiences and memories far more valuable that waiting in line to see some overhyped attraction.

On a trip to a foreign country once, at least one LDS person in a small group was surprised at my desire to catch a local church service on Sunday morning. "Why would anybody want to go to church on vacation?" they wondered. They had limited time in an exotic place and had not yet seen a major attraction in the area and Sunday was their last chance to see something, so they embarked on a trip to a cool resort town instead. I wasn't in a position to put my foot down, so I felt, and went along with the group. We spent much of that day stuck in traffic due to some kind of holiday while my fellow travelers became stressed about the risk of missing their flight back to the US (they barely made it back to the airport in time). Due to the traffic problem, we were able to spend very little time enjoying the destination. It was a nice place to see, yes, and I'd love to go there again, but I think it would have been more enjoyable to spend the morning in church. I fully understand the desire to do something else with limited time in a foreign country, but sometimes the Lord surprises us and we find that the boring detour becomes the real prime destination after all.

13 comments:

Michael said...

Jeff,

I try to follow your advice whenever I am out of town on vacation or on business travel. I find it interesting to see how other wards function.

I was recently at Cornell University for a week long executive training class and attended a local ward up there. I must be honest and admit that I was totally appalled at the noise, lack of reverence, crying, screaming, running in the aisles, general disregard for the speaker, and the pure chaos of the Sacrament meeting. I am being kind in saying it was like a five year old child's birthday party.

The sad part was I was never greeted by a single member and the parents seemed to be just as disrespectful in the meetings as the children. It totally blew me away. I had never experienced anything like that before. I felt sorrow for the missionaries who had to bring investigators into such a scene.

I thought of sending an e-mail to the Bishop after I returned home but I decided that he was probably already aware of the impression left on others and either did not care or was unsuccessful at previous attempts to instill reverence and order in the meetings.

Anonymous said...

We almost always attend at least a sacrament meeting wherever we are when traveling. In New YOrk City over Memorial Day weekend, our first ever trip there, it was a delight to visit the Manhattan 1st Ward (along with lots of other visitors) and see the doors to the temple and ride an elevator to the chapel. Our teenage daughter certainly got a kick out of it and told stories of it back at home. We did have one bad experience, though. In Feb 2009, we attended a ward's sacrament meeting in the Orlando area. It was their ward conference, and the stake president took on a very southern preacher character as he sermonized. My youngest daughter at the time had her scriptures with her, brought all the way from across the country, and when she opened them as the stake president quoted a scripture, he looked down at her directly and quoted a then-recent letter from the first presidency that "we shouldn't open our scriptures in sacrament meeting, and risk the offense of the brethren who told us not to in a letter recently." Having been in leadership positions, I knew the exact letter to which he was referring and he had certainly gone way beyond the letter of the law and the spirit of the letter, too. Since we always sit as close to the front of the chapel as we can, we were so close to the pulpit that his seeming anger, though likely well-intentioned, was astonishing. I felt strongly that he needed to apologize for his actions, so I contacted him after returning home, but he refused. So, you can definitely count on some "spice" in different wards.

Mormanity said...

Sometimes experiencing the flaws is a key part of the journey, helping us resolve to do better and avoid those mistakes. After being a stranger in a ward that failed to greet newcomers, it should motivate us to always go the extra mile to welcome new faces in our midst. A little effort can make such a difference for others.

I always try to have my scriptures with me at church, and am shocked that someone would be so unkind about a person looking up a verse. If that happened to me, I'd probably pull out some other book or magazine (part of my mental 72-hour kit that I carry around for rare emergencies) and begin reading it instead.

D.H. said...

Never been out of the country but whenever my wife and I are on vacation, we try to make it a point to attend church, even while camping. It's always interesting seeing how the church is so different yet still the same, even with in the same State.

Floyd the Wonderdog said...

We always go to church while on vacation.

A small branch in rural Oklahoma welcomed us with open arms. The Branch President wasn't there, but we met him at the Monticello Temple. We needed a witness so that I could be sealed to my mother and he was asked if he could assist. I had a wonderful opportunity to tell him what a wonderful branch he had.

While on the road, we stopped in St. Louis and dropped into a church just in time. The ward was having it's Primary Program. We talked with the sister who arranged the program as my wife had just been asked to prepare the program for our ward. The program was great. The sister was so nice and calmed my wife's fears.

I was blessed to attend church in Eastern Germany not long after the wall came down. The members we so friendly.

My wife and I dropped into a meeting near our hotel in Houston. It was a Spanish speaking branch!! What an interesting experience.

I've had some bad experiences too. Noisy meetings. Indifferent members. Downright rude members. These experiences help me to remember that I need to go the extra mile to make church a pleasant experience for visitors.

Going to church while on vacation can be quite enlightening and entertaining.

readerMom said...

I live in Moab, Ut and since we are right next to several national parks, we often have visitors. I also teach gospel doctrine and I LOVE having the new ideas and opinions of visitors. It is encouraging to see the people who go to church even when they forgot their Sunday clothes or are terribly sunburned. I will follow their example from now on.

Thaddeus said...

A vacation someplace doesn't give you the full flavor unless you have some meaningful interactions with the locals. You can look at all the historic buildings and museums you want, but getting a taste of the culture means talking to real people.

Church is a good place to do this, especially since you have so much in common already to break the ice. They might also be able to point you to unique spots that aren't in your guidebook.

MarkS said...

Last year on a trip to Frankfurt, I attended the local ward; they were having a broadcast of a regional conference. To my surprise, my nephew (who I knew was serving in that mission) was there, so we had a nice visit. Then on the way back to my car, I ran into one of my cousins, who was also there on business.

Things aren't usually that serendipitous, but visits away from home are almost always interesting!

Eric said...

I remember attending the three-hour block in Quito a few years ago. The Gospel Doctrine lesson that Sunday was on the Word of Wisdom, and I found it fascinating to hear how drugs and alcohol affect their society in ways that are both similar to and different than they way they affect ours. It was a lesson on culture I couldn't have received in a museum or got out of a book.

Another interesting experience: Last summer as we were on a long drive halfway across the country, we took a driving break by attending a sacrament meeting at a tiny branch in South Dakota. I didn't know they made branches so small -- the building was a converted double-wide mobile home, yet the branch's territory extended for dozens of miles in all directions. They were great people there, and it felt good to be welcomed to join them in worship.

Geoff said...

Great post. Thanks for sharing you ideas. I think Elder Perry summed it up well in his talk,"As Now We Take the Sacrament," in which he stressed the importance of going to church when traveling and or on vacation.

Personally, I don't understand the mentality that a vacation from work or school means a vacation from the gospel. We are members of the Church 24/7, are we not? Does that go out the window just because we are resorting it up?

Obviously, there are sometimes circumstances beyond our control, or no congregations within feasible distance, but we should always go to church wherever we are, even if it's just to sacrament meeting. I have enjoyed visiting different wards and branches over the years and seeing how the gospel has shaped the saints in far-flung lands. It has always been an edifying experience for me.

Bookslinger said...

You can also save your "fringy" testimonies for when you're vacationing away from home on Fast Sunday. Kinda liven things up without having any repercussions.

LaurieBee said...

We always go to at least Sacrament meeting when on vacation. We tried in Morro Bay, CA on June 27, but apparently it was Stake Conference. There were 6 cars in the parking lot -- all visitors -- and no sign on the building with directions. I left a note for the Bishop with a suggestion for next time. Live and learn.

dining room tables said...

Where ever I go. I always make sure that I am going to visit a church. It is so important for me. I will forget anything but not visiting church. And it is so much fun to see different amazing designs of churches.