I put the following in my monthly newsletter article, my first since my return to work:
The apostles gathered around Jesus, and told him all that they had done and taught. He said to them, “Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while.” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat. (Mark 6:30-31)
“Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” (Matthew 11:28-29)
O sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord, all the earth. (Psalm 96:1)
I recently experienced a wonderful gift. You allowed me to take a sabbatical! For three wonderful months, I
listened to music,
talked with friends,
prayed and worshipped.
It was a tremendously healing time for me. It deepened my faith and trust in God. It strengthened my marriage. It fostered in me great appreciation for my children. It renewed my love for all of you. I learned more about myself, as I reflected on my past in the light of my present while dreaming of the future.
Some people might advise a minister going on sabbatical, “Don’t think about your church!” For me, that was impossible. I couldn’t help but think about Trinity Church: all of you who are its members, adherents, and friends; its various ministries; its great opportunities; its sobering problems; its joys and aggravations. My sabbatical experiences would so often bring these to mind. Sometimes those thoughts were happy. Honestly, sometimes they were not. Curiously, as the sabbatical went on the thoughts became both more hopeful and more realistic. I believe that I have greater clarity about this congregation, its opportunities, and my role here.
But I certainly didn’t spend most of my time thinking about Trinity Reformed Church! There was plenty to fill my attention. Yet so often my calling as a minister and my call as pastor of this congregation were the (at times uninvited) conversation partners in my reflections, as I heard the most profound music, as I looked upon beautiful vistas, as I shared meals with old and new friends, as I played chamber music with fellow musicians.
I return to my work as your pastor with a great deal of excitement and a new-found sense of confidence. I am eager, through preaching and teaching and pastoral care and leadership, to urge and instruct and pester and cajole and attract, all of that for this end: that you would take your faith seriously and put yourselves wholeheartedly into this ministry that we share.
Thank you so much for the gift of my sabbatical! It’s good to be back.