This past Monday I returned to Redeemer after a 10 week sabbatical. The first thought I want to share is my profound gratitude to David and the Vestry for the opportunity to have experienced this time away. Often when someone is offered the privilege of a sabbatical there is an expectation that it will be purposeful; that it should have a specific goal of study or travel. That focus was not what I needed. David could not have been more understanding of my aim ‘to be’ and not ‘to do’. I did not want a ‘sabbatical checklist’ of things to accomplish. Frankly I am normally a task oriented person anyway and I thought it might be healthy to let that component be put on hold. As I now reenter the life of Redeemer, I do so having discovered what ‘rest’ can mean on a holistic level….but more about that in a minute.
I also want to thank both David and Cristina for picking up the liturgical and pastoral needs of the parish in my absence. We are truly a team at all times, but when one clergy is absent there is obviously an impact on the others. So I offer a sincere expression of gratitude for their extra ministry and am so excited that our team will be fully re-staffed in a couple of weeks.
As I look back on the 10 weeks, I offer a “postcard collage” of activity:
- Bill and I spent a week in western North Carolina where I was the visiting clergy at All Saints Chapel in Linville, NC; one my favorite sacred spaces. We have done this for the last 5 years so it was very restorative. Golf and great food are some of the perks that come with the invitation!
- I had 3 trips to our cottage in the Northern Neck of Virginia which is my sanctuary in terms of hibernating. On one of the visits I was involved with the funeral of an old friend. It was held in the Historic Christ Church, built in 1735, outside Kilmarnock VA. Not only was it a privilege to participate in my friend’s service, but to do so in such an historic sacred space was incredibly moving spiritually.
- Bill and I went to Manchester VT for a long weekend where I performed an outdoor wedding for the son of friends of ours. What a beautiful area that is….and there was also golf involved. Bill loves it when golf is connected to my ministry!
- We spent a long weekend in Easton with old friends. Bill was a guest in a golf tournament.
- Another long weekend was in Bethany Beach with Bill’s brother and sister in law…again more golf! Do you notice a theme emerging here?
- And in between the travels was quiet time at home…oh yes, almost forgot, I performed a bilingual ceremony of The Blessing of a Civil Ceremony: French and English. I hope I blessed the couple. My French is more than outdated (not sure there was ever a time it was updated!) so I used Google to translate the service. I just hope when I pronounced they were man and wife in the eyes of the church I didn’t inadvertently pronounce they were pig farmer and pole dancer in the eyes of the devil….ah well.
Now, what about the deeper nature of my sabbatical? What was that experience for me? As the weeks wore on, I discovered what I have come to call ‘the sacrament of rest’. It took a while to untether myself from the need to accomplish. It took a while to give myself permission ‘to be’. It took me awhile to ascribe value to silence and solitude. Gradually I experienced an awareness of the meaning of true rest. I am talking about the word in a holistic and organic way; an experience that resides in your soul. John Lubbock in his book, The Use of Life wrote: “Rest is not idleness. To lie sometimes on the green grass under trees on a summer’s day, listening to the murmur of the water, or watching the clouds float across the sky, is by no means a waste of time.” I now understand that concept as he described. Rest incorporates a more mindful pattern in our daily living. While sleep is a part of rest, there is much more. Sri Sri Ravi Shankar observed “Activity and rest are two vital aspects of life. To find a balance in them is a skill in itself. Wisdom is knowing when to have rest, when to have activity, and how much of each to have. Finding them in each other-activity in rest and rest in activity-is the ultimate freedom.” My prayer is that I will incorporate that wisdom in my ministry/life going forward. Author Mark Buchanan invites us as Christians: Unless and until we rest in God, we will never risk for God.” That is a motivational mantra for me as I reenter the daily routine of parish life.
And so that is enough about me. I want to close on a personal note about you. A component of sabbaticals is the understanding that the person ‘disconnects’ with the parish during that time. You and I knew that was part of our covenant. Yet what I found to be the biggest challenge emotionally and spiritually was holding to that covenant in the midst of the many pastoral situations that happened. I want you to know that my ‘silence’ while deliberate, was at the same time agonizing. This community is unconditionally loving towards one another. When one of us is hurting, we all are. So, perhaps that is the best blessing upon my return….we can hug one another. I missed you.