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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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June 2, 2006

Summer Sundays—on the road, in church?


The price at the pump is pushing $3 a gallon at gas stations here in the Chicago area. But on this first weekend in June many folks here, like those in other parts of the country, will be filling up and heading out on the highways. A Gallup Poll taken just last week shows that 55 percent of Americans plan to take a vacation this summer, but that because of high gas prices 58 percent of those will make changes to their destination—shorten the trip or go somewhere else. The road trip is just a part of summer for Americans who load up the car and take off—many to family cabins but many others to places they’ve never been before. It’s fun to explore, especially following in the wagon tracks of our forebearers.

That’s what we’ll do in a few weeks when friends from Sweden visit. Bishop Hill, a 19th century immigrant colony, in western Illinois, will be our weekend destination. There’s a colony church—once the center of the community—but it’s now a museum. So where will we “go to church”? We could check the phone book or ask someone at the inn where we’ll stay.

But there’s a better way to check out ELCA churches, right from the comfort of your home computer. The ELCA website offers a Locate a Church search feature at the top of the home page. You can supply the name of the town you’ll be in or its zip code—and you’ll be given names congregations, with links to their own home pages, and also addresses and phone numbers. You’ll be asked how far you want to drive to find a church—five miles...or more. My search turned up 10 congregations within 15 miles of Bishop Hill, six within 10 miles and one within five miles.

That’s how to find a church when you’re on vacation: Couldn’t be easier or more convenient.

But how about why you choose to go to a worship service, or not: Are you comfortable being a visitor? Does your enjoyment in exploring extend to going to an unfamiliar church? Or does “vacation” mean a break from the routine that includes attending worship? 

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