This is my last clergy reflection until summertime, and Sunday will be my last Sunday with you until June 2nd. In case you hadn’t heard, I am headed off on sabbatical.
Generally, priests take sabbatical five years into their ministry in a parish. This gives both priest and congregation a time to step back, gain perspective, learn new things, and take a rest…an extended Sabbath.
When my five-year anniversary with you rolled around, we were in the middle of a three-year transition and I had told the vestry that I would do my best to provide pastoral continuity through Tony’s retirement, our interim period with Sarah, and the calling of Nancy to be our rector. Nancy has just chaired her second annual meeting as your rector, I have been with you for six and a half years, and it is time for sabbatical.
While I am gone, I will be praying for you, but I will not be in communication with you; I won’t be able to answer emails or phone calls, or text messages. This sacred space is worth holding to, as you and I separately listen for God’s presence and movement in and around us.
Listening seems to be the essence of our call to be God’s people in this day and age when there is so much noise. Our youth said it well a couple weeks ago, when they took over the pulpit and challenged us to really listen to one another just in case God is trying to get our attention, trying to speak to us directly.
As you may know by now, my sabbatical focus is “Listening for the Heartbeat of God”. I will mostly be in Arlington, listening more deeply to my family and the rhythm of our life, perhaps taking some music lessons, studying scripture, holding silence, and asking God to guide the next steps of my life and vocation.
In April, my family will venture across the ocean to see Greg’s sister in the Netherlands and then to celebrate Holy Week in Edinburgh and Easter week on Iona. I have heard it said that on the island of Iona, the heartbeat of God is just as clearly discernable as the spray of the ocean and the rush of the wind. It is a thin place; a place where the veil between the spiritual and the material is more transparent. My heart has longed to travel to Iona for many years, and this is a pilgrimage that I look forward to greatly.
I pray that I will return to you having been more deeply formed in my personhood and my priesthood. I pray that I will hear God. I pray that you hear God too. We have so many prayers, don’t we?
We pray and we listen. And our faith tells us that God is speaking, and that our hearts are well equipped to hear the Divine Dream whispered directly into each of us.
Yours in Christ,
FAQ of Sabbatical can be found HERE.