I’m back, and what a glorious and life giving sabbatical it was. Thank you. Thank you to our Vestry, wardens, staff, and resident clergy, who worked so hard this summer with grace and skill. I know about some of the great work they’ve all done in my absence, and imagine I’ll continue learning a lot more in the coming days.
Becky and I celebrated our 25th anniversary with an Alaska cruise aboard the Island Princess with Bob and Julie Brady, a couple we know from Chicago who were married exactly two weeks after we were. June involved a lot of odd jobs around the house, and the heart of the sabbatical was a two-month cross-country road trip to visit some very good friends, many of whom I hadn’t really seen in more than 30 years, and one I hadn’t seen in 40. The full trip added 10,900 miles to my odometer, 64 days and two countries. It’s is documented in excruciating detail at https://www.polarsteps.com/LaneHensley/774360-sabbatical2018.
Clergy have different ideas about what to do while on sabbatical, but we almost all agree that some common goals include deep rest and discernment. We take a hard look in the mirror and try to assess honestly our achievements and our failures, our virtues and our faults. We try to listen for things God has been trying to tell us for years, but which we can’t normally hear because we’re so busy filling our minds and souls with what we think is important. We try to use the time the way Jesus used his 40-days in the desert, in solitude, listening for the call of God.
I wanted a theological grounding for the sabbatical, and figured a book was a good way to go. Several years ago, Rita Saari tried in vain to get me to read Richard Rohr’s Falling Upward. I never did it. I was too busy, or so I told myself. And I feared that Richard Rohr was another in a long series of Church of What’s Happening Now popular theologians full of platitudes PowerPoint slides for the church guru lecture circuit. And honestly, I’m glad I didn’t read the book when Rita was trying to convince me I should. I would have understood it with my head, but my soul would have yawned. I wasn’t ready. Sabbatical was the right time. I learned a lot directly from the book, but more importantly, the book helped me open myself to the presence of God in a way I never have experienced before, and it’s had a deep effect on me.
For several weeks now I’ve been praying and meditating with two scriptures. I’m a list person, and both scriptures are lists: Philippians 4:8 and Galatians 5:22-23. I have a feeling you’ll be hearing about this in a sermon in the next few weeks or months.
I owe a debt of thanks to so many people, and this is a very partial list:
- Our paid and volunteer office staff, including Debby Jansma, Deb Seles, Emily Vogt, Darlene Fletcher, Jo Bice, Chet Hecht, John Wright, Norma Cardenas, and Veronica Aguayo.
- Our Vestry, and especially our Junior Warden, Jim Duke; and our Senior Warden, Jan Romerdahl.
- Our newly-formed Facilities Management team, especially Jim Hatfield and Bob Gibson, and especially for their work on the 43 air conditioner failures they experienced in my absence, the complete replacement of the air conditioner in Karns Hall and the kitchen, and the ongoing renovation of the Library, using a gift from the family of former Vestry member Marge Freeman, who designated the gift for that purpose.
- Rita Saari and Kathleen Dale, who’ve been introducing me to the second half of life.
- Our resident clergy, and especially associate rector Deb Seles and my friend and colleague Kathleen Kelly, who continues serve as a wise and steady counselor to me and to our parish leadership.
- Our sermon posting volunteers, Mark Austin and Jo Bice, and to Jim Duke for his continuing work managing news.stmargarets.org.
- To Gretchen Heuring and her extraordinary stewardship team, whose labor has been wise and fruitful.
- To Kay Wood and the Compassion and Justice ministry for their hard work through the summer that will bring us Joan Chittister as a special guest and speaker in December 2019.
- To Meredith Hardy, David Burgdorf, and the Living Without Fear ministry’s preparation for the Gun Violence Sabbath on September 23.
- Again to Jim Duke for covering us on Wednesday morning chapel service when no priest was available.
- To Mark Austin and his leadership of our upcoming Compline worship offering.
- To my colleague Deb Seles for her creative leadership of worship and excellent preaching, solid pastoral care, and illuminating educational offerings even through the summer.
- And most of all, to my family, Becky, Bob, and Nell. I love you very deeply.
I’m happy to be home with you, St. Margaret’s.