I enjoy reading the travel section of the New York Times. Frequently they run a feature called "Thirty-Six Hours in ...", where they take readers across the country and suggest highlights of certain cities. The column even refers the readers to airlines and places to stay. The most recent column, in last week's newspaper, described a 36-hour trip to Charleston, S.C.
One thing that is missing, however, from every one of these features, is any sense that the traveler might have a yearning to worship in a church, synagogue or even a mosque. Considering how religious we Americans profess to be, one might think that this travel writer would at least tip the hat every once in awhile to an outstanding worship service or beautiful setting for a living, breathing congregation.
Take last week's recommendations for Charleston, for instance. Writer Shaila Dewan's suggestions for Sunday morning consisted of the day beginning with eating pecan sticky buns at 9 a.m. followed by an 11 a.m. trip to a nearby botanical garden. Both sound very nice, but whatever happened to the suggestion of a place -- any place -- to worship? Charleston is chock-full of churches. I also quickly located three synagogues and two mosques.
Where would a travel writer begin, you ask? How could a travel writer possibly know where to worship to satisfy such a diverse readership? That begs the question, it seems. The same writer doesn't know whether I want an egg biscuit, a breakfast buffet or a stack of pancakes for breakfast, but she documents her own recommendation, nevertheless.
With just a little bit of investigation, she could find an outstanding place to worship just as easy as she could find, say, a nightclub. Why couldn't the writer, in her Charleston weekend, suggest a funky African-American congregation with a fabulous gospel choir, a humongous suburban mega-church with comfortable theater seats or an historic synagogue with a wise rabbi?
Some of you will say that I am making a mountain out of a mole hill. Maybe so. Not everybody worships when they are on vacation. But at least every once in awhile it might be a natural addition to a feature that is otherwise very attractive.
Over the years I have been on both sides of the fence regarding worshiping in another city. Whenever I have been on vacation it has always been a joyful experience to worship with new friends in a new setting. And as the pastor of a local church, particularly in Savannah, I have the privilege of welcoming tourists from around the globe to worship each week.
Millions of Americans set aside time each week to assemble together to worship God. Ms. Dewan, why not assume that some of us might like to begin our Sunday in worship before we enjoy that sticky bun? Of course, that might also involve coming in from the nightclub just a little earlier on Saturday.
Contact the Rev. Creede Hinshaw at Wesley Monumental United Methodist Church in Savannah at firstname.lastname@example.org.