I love summer. In fact, I love everything about summer.
Last summer didn’t seem like normal as we battled the effects of COVID. But this year, as we get ready for the long, hot days, some things come to mind. My hope is that as we come out of the pandemic struggle, we will embrace a renewed calling to love, church, service and kindness.
Recently I had the privilege of speaking with Michael Curry, presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church. I confess to being a little nervous even before our Zoom call began. With a background like his — he officiated the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle and is one of the influential thought leaders of our day — who wouldn’t be a little nervous? As soon as the call began, however, I knew he and I would hit it off well, even if we were from two different Christian traditions, with me being Baptist.
From Bishop Curry, I learned something about my own personal goals for the summer:
First, choose love. Last summer was challenging, and the lingering effects of COVID are still with us, especially the lasting grief many went through in losing loved ones. My prayer is that even in grief we will embrace the life God has given us and set a new course before us.
In the book of Ecclesiastes, we are told that for everything there is a season. As I started my conversation with Bishop Curry, he reminded me that “everyone was made in the image of God.” And if everyone has been made in the image of God, then we should choose love, knowing that in this new season the people God places in front of us are made to be loved. This summer I am choosing to love people.
Second, go to church. I am having a hard time easing back into the church building after being out so long. I’m just being honest. I’ve enjoyed the lazy Sunday mornings. During my time with Bishop Curry, it became clear to me that he loves the body of Christ.
“I am having a hard time easing back into the church building after being out so long. I’m just being honest.”
“When this season is over of being the presiding Bishop, I’m going to find a small church to pastor and love on,” he said, adding that he fell in love with church during an important season in his life after he lost his mother. The church stepped in every area of his life when he needed them most.
Although my story is very different, summer represents a new beginning for me. It’s where my faith story began as a young middle school student who made the decision to be a Christ-follower at a middle school camp. This summer, I am recommitting to attend church every Sunday, even when I’m out of town on vacation.
Third, serve others. “We have been called to be Christlike. It’s a word we don’t use much anymore, but that’s what we’ve been called to,” Curry reminded me in a nice but direct way. In fact, to be honest, I thought I was hearing a sermon tailored just for me.
As I look back and think about what’s ahead for this summer, I’m reminded of the many mission trips I took as a youth growing up and I remember the supernatural lessons I learned from them. Those lessons actually led me to want to serve as a minister.
When we serve others, we are being Christlike to a world that needs serving. Yes, have fun this summer, but also choose to serve others.
“Romans 12 is clear, Maina,” Curry told me. “We are to present ourselves as a living sacrifice.” He was making it clear that when we serve we our acting just like Jesus.
“He was making it clear that when we serve we our acting just like Jesus.”
Fourth, be kind and give grace. Ask just about anyone who knows me, and they will tell you that I love Chick-fil-A. In fact, I could eat there every day if my wife would let me. One of the main reasons I love Chick-fil-A is because of their customer service, which is amazing.
I recently spent time with one of their operators, Kevin Williams, who has written an amazing book on “irrational kindness.” He believes one of the ways we choose kindness is by asking ourselves, “What act of kindness will I leave for people to remember me by?” When we are kind, we are sending the message that we want people to know they are valued.
As my time with Bishop Curry came to an end, I was reminded of the kind words and challenging message he gave me — a reminder that in loving and serving people well, I will live out the message of Christ not by theology but by action.
“Maina, don’t focus on issue-based theology but focus on the person in front of you,” he urged.
This summer I believe if I — if we — do these four things, we will not only enjoy the long, hot fun days of summer but also leave a lasting mark, by being like Christ.
Maina Mwaura is a freelance writer and communications consultant who lives in the metro Atlanta area. A native of Orlando, Fla., he earned a bachelor of science degree in communications from Liberty University and a master of divinity degree from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.