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.

Recital Announcement

Music for a Summer Evening

July 18, 2012
7:30 pm

Trinity Reformed Church
909 Landing Road North
Rochester, New York, 14610

To help me mark the end of my sabbatical, some of my friends and I are putting on a concert.

By “some,” I mean Dave Lane, Maxine Sturtevant, John Kluge, Terry Smith, Caroline Clearwater Slocum, Dana Hyuge, and a few others. Maybe you know them. They’re great people and great musicians. We’ve had a lot of fun working together.

I love the music we’re playing. Pieces will include Bach’s Double Concerto for Violin and Oboe (featuring Dave Lane and Terry Smith as soloists), Dvorak’s “American” String Quartet, Barber’s String Quartet, Shostakovich’s “Two Pieces for String Quartet,” as well as works by Arvo Pärt and Scott Slapin.

Please come out for this. I’m sure you’ll enjoy it.

Dallas (or, the Violapastor Goes to a Very Hot Place)

I got to spend a few days in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex, from Saturday to Wednesday, June 23-27. It was great to visit with a number of old friends, most of them representing the three institutions that were most central to my time in Texas: Southern Methodist University, Hope Reformed Church (of blessed memory), and the Reformed Church in Plano. I had a number of deep, rich conversations with these dear people over a meal. Even though I now call each one a friend, in the past I have used other names to describe them: colleague, classmate, choir members, mentor, student.

Going there, I felt uncertain about my reasons for the trip. It seemed that I was wanting something, but I had trouble saying exactly what it was. I think that all I was wanting was to connect with this significant part of my life so I could understand better who I am now. Maybe I was wanting to feel that it hadn’t been a waste.

I lived in Dallas County for twelve years, about three times as long as I had expected to be there. During that time I experienced success, satisfaction, happiness, disappointment, and errors in judgment. I made many friends, and I lost a couple friends. I learned important lessons, some of which sure would have been good to know beforehand.

In visiting my friends, I received a great blessing from them. Although it is not easy to put into words, I think the blessing they gave me was this: that my time in North Texas was not a waste, nor a detour while I was on my way to where I am now. God had a purpose for me there, as God had a purpose for bringing these friends into my life. Even the church where I had given nine years of my life, a church that closed about 2 years after I left Texas, is likewise under that gracious blessing of “this is not wasted,” as God’s love, the peace of Christ Jesus, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit together converted and molded and, surely, continue to work in the lives of its former members.

And yes, yes, yes, it was very hot there. I walked around SMU’s campus during the worst of it on Monday and Tuesday. Even though it doesn’t look like it in this picture, it was probably about 105℉ at the time I took this shot:


I think the next time I visit should be some February.

San Francisco

I have been spending a few days in the City by the Bay. (Cue classic Journey track!) I figured that while I was on the West Coast I ought to include SF in my itinerary. My great hope had been that Tammi could join me here, but that didn’t work out, so I have known for a while that I would be here on my own.

But what a neat city to explore. On Saturday evening, after an excellent Thai meal of pad kee mao (stir fried flat rice noodles, garlic, onion, bell peppers, tomatoes, green beans and basil), I took cable cars to Fisherman’s Wharf.

It was quite lovely there in the early evening:

and I met some new friends (but they were a little sleepy):

The next morning I went to City Church for worship, and then had great conversation over lunch with my friend Scot Sherman, one of the pastors at City Church.

After lunch Scot dropped me off at the Golden Gate Bridge, which I proceeded to walk. It’s 1.7 miles across, so I needed a little rest on the other side before I walked back. Scot was smart to advise me to purchase some sunscreen at the gift shop before starting across. It was a beautiful, sunny day, as these shots will prove:

This morning I went to Japantown, which was really neat. I’m sure Jonathan (my eldest son) would enjoy it.

After having a delicious lunch of red snapper at Fisherman’s Wharf, I went to Chinatown. It was interesting, but I didn’t like it as much as Japantown.

Tonight I’m having dinner with a good friend from seminary, Magi Henderson. She is pastor of a church only a block away from my hotel, and she’s also on sabbatical.

Tomorrow I go home. I’m so happy that I’ll see Tammi and the boys. (Bethany is doing an internship in Colorado Springs.)

Holden Village

Last Monday, June 4, I went to Holden Village. Talk about remote. To get there I took a three hour boat ride up Lake Chelan, which was cloudy that day:

When we reached the Lucerne landing, buses from Holden were there to take us 12 miles up the mountain (with 9 switchbacks in the first mile) to the village.

My room, though rustic, had a nice vantage point onto the central gathering point of the village.

Holden is high in the Cascade mountains, with some breathtaking views I would never have in my beloved Adirondacks. The weather was not so good much of the time, sod this is what I typically saw, if I could see anything:

But when things cleared up, then this is what I could see:

On Thursday I was able to take a nice little hike to the nearby falls with some friends:

Proof that I was there:

Holden was a copper mine until more than 50 years ago. The mining company sold the land to the Lutheran Church for $1, and the Holden Village is now celebrating their 50th anniversary as a retreat center and religious community.

It’s amazing how they transformed the old gymnasium of the company town into the village’s worship space:

It was a decent week, but I was ready to return to civilization on Friday. The weather was beautiful, which made for a great boat trip back down the lake:

The album, with slightly larger pictures and download options, can be found here:

Into the Wilderness

Saturday was a very busy day of travel. I flew to Seattle via Chicago, took the Seattle light rail north to Chinatown


Then (after some szechuan chicken) took Amtrak almost 4 hours east to Wenatchee. This took us past Puget Sound:


Then we eventually made our way into the mountains:

Tomorrow I will go to Chelan and take a 3 hour boat ride up Lake Chelan to Lucerne, where a bus from Holden Village will meet several of us and take us the remaining 14 miles to Holden.

In short, it’s very remote. Cell phones don’t work up there, and I won’t have Internet access either. So there will be no more posts about this trip until after I leave Holden on Friday. At that point I should have some great pictures to share, as the boat ride up Lake Chelan is reportedly very beautiful.

Viola Heaven

Thursday was a thrilling day full of music. I spent the whole day at the Eastman School of Music attending events at the International Viola Congress. (The congress began the day before and continued into Sunday, but this was all I could attend.) I went to four recitals, two master classes, and an RPO concert. The day began (at 8:00) with an informal session of a room full of violists playing Brandenburg #6. Great fun!

The highlight of my day was, without question, hearing the superb Kim Kashkashian in recital, playing works of Brahms, Kurtág, and Schumann. I was one of her many fans who filled Kilbourn Hall. The first notes showed why she is regarded as among the very best, as this tiny woman effortlessly let loose a warm, fluid, full sound that enveloped us all and moved me deeply. Every motion, even the slightest, appeared to be intentional, decided for a deep musical purpose. Hearing her was both inspiring and humbling. (I was humbled many times that day!)

There were many other great things about the day. Touching on only a few others, I was thrilled to hear (by Ayane Kozasa) a performance of Arvo Pärt’s “Fratres” for viola and piano, which I’ve recently started practicing. And Peter Minkler’s take on the fast movement from Schumann’s “Märchenbilder” (“Rasch”) was almost comically fast, yet astounding in its flawlessness. I think I now am beginning to understand what my teacher was trying to get into my head (and hands) about the right bow stroke for this.

The very last music of the day was the RPO playing “Pictures at an Exhibition.” Thrilling!

A nice coda to this came on the plane to Chicago Saturday morning. The gentleman next to me across the aisle noticed that I was reading the program for the IVC, so he asked me if I had attended. I learned that he was not merely an attendee, but also a performer at the IVC. In fact, he was Atar Arad, professor of viola at the school of Music at IU Bloomington. He also was teacher to my viola teacher, Charles Gray. So, musically speaking, I met my grandfather.

hello, EDT

Tammi and I had a super time in England. And now we’re home. We missed our boys, and Ziva (our dog) really missed Tammi. Bethany’s finishing up her semester in college, but we should see her on Thursday. It’s taking a bit of time for me and Tammi to adjust to this time zone. We’re both pretty tired when we would normally be peppy. I got up about 5:30 this morning, even though I’m suffering from a cold.

I was able to continue the music focus of this sabbatical on my first full day back by attending choir rehearsal at Third Presbyterian Church. This is the church I usually attend when I am on vacation and also in town. I know two of the pastors there, and have met the third a few times. I’m comfortable with the worship and the music. Their music director, Peter DuBois, is the host of a nationally syndicated radio program on sacred choral and organ music, “With Heart and Voice.” I thought it would be fun to sing in their choir when I could. Peter kindly agreed to my request to join the choir.

So Wednesday evening was my first choir rehearsal with them. What a nice bunch. We sang a lot of music. (Their rehearsals are two hours long, with a short break in the middle.) I was thrilled that one of the pieces was by Arvo Pärt, his “Beattitudes.” I had heard this only four days before, performed by the BBC Singers in London! Although my voice is not in good shape (probably allergies, and the beginnings of this cold), I was happy to get to explore one of Pärt’s choral works from the inside.

The music continued on Thursday. I had learned that a member of Third Church, Dr. Jennifer Elton Turbes, was performing a viola recital as part of Third’s “Chapel Concert by Candlelight” series. It was very enjoyable, held in a perfectly intimate (although warm!) setting. Two of the pieces were familiar to me: selections from Bach’s sixth suite for cello, and Grainger’s “Arrival Platform Humlet” (although I have never played the latter). The Bach was in a different key than what I play it in, which made it almost an entirely new piece for me! There’s something in that, don’t you think, that a different key makes the familiar so new?

I had never met Jennifer before, but I felt from the start that we had a connection. That’s because in the program she named her teachers, one of whom had been my viola teacher in college! It was fun to share a few stories about Charles.

Jennifer and her friends did a great job, making wonderful music while making the difficult seem easy and the simple sound profound. Kudos!

London, Day 5

It was sunny, today! That was a welcome change.

This morning, we went to two music stores in Westminster near Oxford Circus: Chappell of Bond Street and Schott Music Shop. I was very pleased to pick up print music for several Arvo Pärt pieces, although I couldn’t locate the two I had wanted to find. These will definitely do, though.

After that we went to a fine chocolatier near Regent Park called Rococo Chocolates. Wonderful! After lunch with fish and chips, we went to the British Museum and saw Assyrian sculpture, the Rosetta Stone, Roman statuary, and mummies from ancient Egypt and Rome. We made it just in time for Evensong at Westminster Abbey, which really fed my soul. After that we had a leisurely walk from there to the Thames and then along its length for about half a mile. It was rush hour, and it was amazing to see, on this beautiful day, how many bicycle commuters there were out, riding the streets with just as much purpose and ownership as the other vehicles. We must have seen a few hundred!

After this we had another fine dinner at Porters. I was too full and tired to go with the pudding, as I had on Thursday. So it will have to be just a memory.

We have a bit of packing to do. But then it will be bed time, as we have to check out tomorrow about 7 a.m.

So, goodbye to London. It was a pleasure.