Thursday, December 29, 2016
Letters from the Soul: This Month's Newsletter Column
New Year's Eve and Day always brings much in the way of pomp, circumstance, and tradition with it: the making of resolutions, the watching of the Times Square ball, the singing of Auld Lang Syne, and much more. It is a holiday of celebration, of renewal, and of hope for the future.
It feels appropriate, then, that I would begin my sabbatical on the dawn after New Year's Day, for those are indeed my own hopes for my three months away on study leave: to celebrate what we have done, to find sources of renewal for myself, and to plan for the next stage of our future.
This, then, is a (temporary!) good bye to all of you—I will begin my sabbatical on Monday, January 2, and I will be away for exactly three months. I will be back in the office on Monday, April 3, and I will return to preaching and worship leadership on Palm Sunday, April 9. I am very grateful for the chance to take a sabbatical, and to the church for including the contingency for a sabbatical in my contract when I first arrived here as your pastor over five years ago.
I must confess to you that the sabbatical comes at a very needed time for me. 2016 has left me emotionally and spiritually drained--in addition to losing several beloved members of our congregation over the past few years, I've felt enormously grieved by the poverties and obstacles faced not only by many folks right here in Longview, but around the entire world, from Aleppo to Berlin and all points in between. So first and foremost, I am hoping and praying to find some renewal and restoration for my spirit during my time away.
I am also hoping to be able to spend some time working on the future. I already have a pair of sermon series planned for after I return in April, but I also would like to use my work on my doctoral thesis as a chance to reflect on what my ministry here should look like--what I have learned so far from five-plus years here already, and how I can take what I have learned and more deliberately put it into action.
During these three months, the life of the church will be a little different. I will not be involved in the day-to-day running of the church office, and I will not be available for those regular day-in, day-out things that I usually do as your pastor. I won't be around on Sundays or at Tuesday Bible study. I won't be sitting in on Monday morning staff meetings with Charlotte and Jamie. And I won't be making trips over to St. John hospital for pastoral care.
That does not mean you will not hear from me—I will be updating my blog throughout my sabbatical to let all of you know what I am up to, and you will still hear from me in this newsletter column each month, just like usual. And though I will not be physically present at the church, please know that all of you will be spiritually present in my prayers, just as you always are and just as I always hope that I am in your prayers.
I know that while I am away, you will be in good hands--we have some very talented guest preachers lined up, and both the board of directors and the elders have stepped up to be responsive to some of the things that I would ordinarily address in the course of my ordinary workdays. I will still miss all of you, though, and I look forward to my return to the office in April!
Yours in Christ,