Well, my bags are almost packed and I am just about ready to go - not quite the right words from the John Denver song, but you get the idea. I'm soon heading off into the sunset. I am profoundly thankful to the vestry for their support in making this sabbatical possible. I am deeply grateful to the staff, especially to Nancy Dodson who will take care of operational matters and Andy Barnett who will oversee our program life as a church. Crucially, Andy will also take care of this parish - all of you - which is a community of immense value in my life and the life of our family. Thank you for granting us this time to be away.
This time apart for rector and parish is a gift for each of us to take stock of the past six years of ministry together, as well as the relationships we have shared. I feel thoroughly at home here. I know and feel your support and care. I am not saying that each of you agrees with all that I say or do. I am saying, though, that you have received me as rector here at a level that is much deeper than matters of opinion. In this life of ordained ministry, that is a rare and precious gift. All that said, take this time, if you would, to ask what could be different upon my return. How could I be different? How could All Saints' be different? And what do you wish to remain exactly as it is?
As the vestry offered their own reflections this month on what my sabbatical could mean for me and for the parish, one of them wisely encouraged me that as the long list of daily tasks fades away for a while to recall what it was that drew me into this vocation in the first place. In many ways, this sabbatical will allow me to do just that, retracing the roots of my faith and the faith we have in common.
We will begin in India and at the school where I served as a teacher right out of college, and where I felt the call to ordained ministry the strongest. We will then fly to Israel, to the place of Christianity's birth, and via Jordan and Egypt move on to Turkey where Paul spread the gospel, spending time in Cappadocia and Istanbul. Our family's final stage of the journey will be in Italy, staying in Rome and on the Amalfi coast. As Monica and the kids fly home, I will spend my final two weeks in England with family and then on a week's retreat as I contemplate all that we will have experienced together. My first Sunday back will be August 27th.
'Look to the rock from which you were hewn' (Isaiah 51:1), is one of my favorite Bible verses. I intend to do that very thing, with faith and thanksgiving. See you soon.