Pastor Gayle’s Reflections
“Sabbath keeping and sabbatical leave are part of a rhythm of life intended to refresh and renew all of creation so that all of creation will continue to reflect the face and will of God. Hence Sabbath keeping becomes a way of living.” – Clergy Renewal: The Alban Guide to Sabbatical Planning,
A. Richard Bullock and Richard J. Bruesehoff
This summer I will be taking the remaining 8 weeks of my sabbatical time. As the quote above states, this will be a time to “refresh and renew,” both for me and for the congregation. We will mark the beginning of this time in worship on Sunday, June 11, with a Litany of Blessing for Sabbatical. It is fitting that this will take place on the Sunday when we also mark the end of the Sunday School and Choir years, as well as celebrate the graduates in the congregation; it will truly be a day to recognize the turn of seasons!
During my time away, I will be engaging in a number of activities designed to help me refocus and reconnect with family, friends, and, most significantly, God. It is far too easy, even for pastors, to strain our connection with the Divine as we go through the hectic paces of “regular” life. I will begin my time in far northern Wisconsin, helping to lead an arts camp for youth, at a UCC camp and retreat center. I will continue my time in Wisconsin, following camp, by spending time with my parents, and hopefully reconnecting with friends from high school. Mid-summer I will attend the UCC General Synod in Baltimore. Because I am attending as a visitor, and not as a delegate, I get to enjoy this giant, denominational family reunion without all the extra meetings and business that I took part in during the last two Synods, when I was a delegate. I will also get to spend some time with family while I am there, as my sister, her husband, and their daughter will travel to Baltimore to visit my brother-in-law’s family. Much of the rest of my time will be spent devouring books from my substantial (read: enormous) to-be-read pile, praying, and catching up on the many things that drop off the to-do list when church events and ministry are more time-sensitive.
It is my hope and prayer for the congregation, during this time apart, that you all will embrace your own season of renewal. I hope it will be a time to play and try new things. (After all, it’s a relatively short timeframe and it’s the summer – prime timing for experiments!) The Diaconate is looking forward to embracing the gifts of everyone in the congregation in worship – which means worship will probably look a little different. Some weeks there may be a more traditional sermon, while other weeks may include a dialogue or even a group reflection on the scripture. Ever had an idea for worship that you thought might be a little too wacky? Now is the time to try it! Talk to Ken Doody to volunteer and/or with ideas.
Part of renewal is also reflection. As we try new things, it will be important to consider what ‘works’ and what doesn’t. What could work better if… and what might just need to be done at a different time. It is also important to reflect on the things we “normally” do, in order to determine what works best for us now. Our congregation’s constitutional article of faith and covenant states that we “affirm the responsibility of the Church in each generation to make this faith its own in reality of worship, in honesty of thought and expression, and in purity of heart before God.” Now is the time! What will you do to help renew the life of the church in this generation? What might it mean to live into our congregational covenant and our Open and Affirming Statement? What can we do to “walk the talk”?
Upon my return in August, there will be several opportunities for us to catch up with one another before I step back into the regular routine of worship design and leadership. At this point, the dates and times are as follows:
- Tuesday, August 8, 12PM
- Wednesday, August 9, 6PM (prior to Cabinet at 7:30PM)
- Saturday, August 12, 10AM
- Sunday, August 13, post-worship brunch at Fannie’s on Montrose
- Tuesday, August 15, 7PM
If you are interested in signing up for any of these dates, please email or call the church. Other dates and times may be added, if necessary. You are also welcome to schedule a visit if none of these small group times work for you. (Note: I will be returning to my regular Friday day-off/Sabbath upon my return to the office, so no visits will be scheduled for Fridays.)
I will end my summer with a long weekend in Hilton Head, South Carolina, to perform my brother’s wedding on August 26. I will return to worship design and leadership the week leading up to Sunday, September 3. We will all return to our “regularly scheduled programming” with Rally Day on Sunday, September 10, when Choir and Sunday School will resume, and the service will return to 11AM start time.
May we embrace this opportunity for renewal in the Holy Spirit!