Summer Chapel

July 2009 – Rector’s Ruminations

As I was preparing a brief “Welcome from the Rector” greeting for our parish website, I was mindful of the fact that we are a somewhat unique parish church. The uniqueness I refer to has to do with the composition of our membership, specifically, it strikes me that we have three congregations within our parish family. Year-round residents comprise the first group and make up the majority of our membership. A second group consists of those persons who have second or first home here but spend extended periods of time in another part of the country or world. The third group is made up of visitors who come to Orcas primarily in the summer to enjoy the beauty and various activities offered on our island. We are especially aware of this uniqueness each Sunday morning when we welcome members back who have been away and welcome visitors who are not residents. Such uniqueness presents us with opportunities and challenges for our ministry as a “village church.” On the one hand our ministry continues throughout the year with, for and by “year rounders.”  Many of you in this group along with the second group exercise an important ministry of hospitality, evangelism and pastoral care to those who comprise the third group, visitors and vacationers. In noting this uniqueness and opportunity for ministry, I recall my experience with “summer chapels” of the Episcopal Church in various parts of the country.

My first experience of a summer chapel was when I was Bishop of South Dakota.  Liz and I along with our children spent two to three weeks over the course of seven summers where I served as chaplain to the Church of the Atonement in Fish Creek, Door County, Wisconsin.  Members of this summer chapel took great pride in the fact that the church had no running water or electricity! Moving eastward, my experience continued, while President of General Seminary and St. Paul’s School, in serving two beautiful summer chapels on the coast of Maine over the course of 13 summers – All Saints by-the-Sea on Southport Island and later St. Anne’s Chapel, Kennebunkport, Maine. Each of these summer chapels was different in terms of size, geographic make-up and the breadth of ministry offered.  What was common to all three was how important such summer chaplaincy was in welcoming persons from other parish families and visitors from around the country and the world and in providing a holy space and place for those who had no church affiliation but were seeking a relationship with God. I found such summer chaplaincy, “a “busman’s holiday” of sorts, both meaningful and inspirational.  The opportunity to connect with persons from around the globe and share ministry, albeit for a brief period, was most gratifying.  Many wrote letters of appreciation noting how spiritually transforming and renewing their time was as a part of that special ministry.

I share these reflections with you because we are at the beginning of the most intense period of our “summer season” from the 4th of July weekend through September when I am told the population of Orcas Island almost triples given the influx of summer visitors.  As such we are a “summer chapel” in many ways for those who visit here and we are in a position to offer, what is done so well at Emmanuel year round – an increased and intentional ministry of hospitality, pastoral care, outreach and evangelism to and with our summer visitors.  Warmly welcoming, serving as a church that might well serve as a bridge in finding a church family when visitors return home, helping in the case of an emergency and inviting visitors to be a part of other church and community activities are but a few ways that we love God and God’s creation and our neighbor (visitors) as ourselves.

And who knows, perhaps in welcoming the stranger in our midst, we entertain angels unaware…

In Christ,


By Bishop Craig B. Anderson

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