Hello, Memorial family and friends! It’s hard for me to believe we’re coming up on the end of the first month of my sabbatical. Part of the reason is that it’s honestly been kind of hectic, trying to get focused in on the sabbatical and fulfilling some other things I’d committed to in regional ministry. That was stressing me out, but things are falling into place and it’s all been a rich experience so far.
To start my sabbatical, I took an overnight retreat at Camp Tamarack where I did a lot of reading, resting, and kayaking out on the lakes. This was a great opportunity for prayer and reflection.
Our Sabbatical Learning Group also met together for the first time, and I’m really excited about the people participating and the things we’re reading and will be discussing. The question of what it means to listen and find community with those who either claim no faith or who are unconnected with others in their journey is one that is of great importance to all of us who are seeking to live into God’s mission in the world. I believe that not only is God at work in Fond du Lac, but that God has positioned us to be a part of that work, alongside others across this community.
Members of our learning group selected books from a bibliography I pulled together, and I am working to read through and take notes on all of the books they have chosen. So far, I’ve finished Unchurched by the Barna Group, and The Nones Are Alright” by Kaya Oakes. Right now I’m reading Canoeing the Mountains, which draws lessons and images from the Lewis and Clark expedition to talk about leadership models for the missional church in these times of challenge and transformation. This one in particular is humbling and encouraging me – pointing out areas for personal and corporate growth.
At the same time, part of the purpose of a Sabbatical is for recharging, resting and reconnecting with Gabrielle and with my own sense of joy and wonder. I’ve spent some afternoons at the Idea Studio at the Library, working on a laser-etching project. We also just returned from a ten day vacation touring national parks in southern Utah and northern Arizona. Every day we saw something new and spectacular, truly awe-inspiring sights of God’s magnificent and diverse creation, millions upon millions of years in the making. We got to hike up a river, ride horses down into Bryce Canyon, kayak on the Colorado river – which was a bit more adventurous than we’d anticipated – and take pictures that we can’t wait to share with you all. This coming week, I’ll (once more) be joining my friend and colleague Ron Riemersma from YFC in driving for Tempest Tours, observing and photographing storms out on the plains of the Midwest.
We had a lot of time on the road (just a hair under 41 hours in total), and listened to a number of podcasts from the Awakenings Conference this past spring, featuring Alan Hirsch, Greg Boyd and N.T. Wright, talking about engaging in the mission of God together through the presence of the Spirit, as we are walking in the footsteps of Jesus. I hope the theme sounds familiar, and it’s given me plenty to ponder as I look forward to sharing bits and pieces later on!
July will also be a busy time: continuing to read, meet with the learning group, and listening to people whose stories outside of a faith community are important for us to hear. I’ll also be camp pastor for 5th and 6th graders at Camp Tamarack on the week of the 10th (which will allow me to focus in on reading and note-taking during most of the day).
But before I go, I want to express my deep gratitude for the support of the church family in not just allowing, but encouraging me in this time for renewal and focus. It is my goal and my prayer that this time will result in blessing for all of us together.
And I want to say thank you as well to all of the church leaders and volunteers who not only continue to lead and work as they have before, but who have stepped up to go the extra mile to ensure the ministry of the church continues in a healthy way while I am away.
Please continue to pray for our learning group and for me during this time, for Gabrielle as she also takes on extra responsibilities, and for one another, that our church family may not only stay strong and connected over the summer, but that all of us may continue to use our gifts and grow together in the image of God.
I’ll look forward to seeing you all around here and there as we go, and especially to hearing the stories of life as we reconnect!
Blessings on the journey!