London, Day 1

Last night was a late one, so we slept in a little. I got up around 9:30 a.m. (London time). Soon we made our way out into the city.

We had a late breakfast at a pub across the street.

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Mine was a fairly traditional English breakfast: Cumberland sausage, two eggs, beans, ham, a grilled tomato and a grilled mushroom cap, toast.

Then we went on our way, looking for what sights we could see. We had a lot of fun in the Covent Garden Market, where we heard an enthusiastic string quartet who played the first movement of Eine Kleine Nachtmusik with choreographed steps. Corny but winsome.

Then we looked for a Tardis, but all we could find was this:

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A bus tour of London sounded good, but if we had known we’d have to wait 45 minutes for the bus then maybe we would have decided otherwise. But once on we were glad to be there. It was good to have the overview of the major attractions in the heart of London.

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This will help us decide what we want have be our focus in the next few days. I think Westminster Abbey, the river tour, and the Tower of London are quite likely tomorrow.

Traffic is heavy in London, so it takes longer than we expected to get places. I wanted to attend Evensong at St. Paul’s Cathedral at 5:00 p.m., but just the taxi ride took 20 minutes, at which point I had business at the Barbican ticket office to conduct (with nothing to show for it in the end, alas). So, evensong will have to wait for tomorrow.

We ended the day with a (stereo-)typical English meal of pies at Porters. I had the most amazing Shepherd’s Pie I’ve ever had.

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Tammi doesn’t like to show off her food, so no picture from her meal.

Well, maybe this shot would be okay:

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We shared a dark chocolate pudding for dessert.

We’re both tired but happy.

London Calling

Tammi and I arrived last night in London. As we were walking through Heathrow Airport, I said to her, “I’m in London! Finally! I think I might cry!”

I’ve wanted to go to England for years. When I was a sophomore in college, I considered doing a semester in Scotland, but decided against it because I didn’t want to be away from Tammi for that long. I’d rather go with her. And now I have.

By the time we got to bed it was about 3 a.m. London time. The plane got in a little later than scheduled, then the line (oh, sorry, the “queue”) for customs was very long. We were next to some people who had been two rows ahead of us on the plane. Turns out their Americans, and he’s the pastor of a church in London. They were very helpful. By the time we got to the Underground (subway) station, the last train had just left. So with them we took the bus. After some good conversation and a minor adventure looking for the hotel with another American acquaintance, we got to our rooms and eventually were able to settle down to sleep.

It’s now some 7 hours later, and we’re just about ready to go. We’ll take in some sights, and some food. I figure that tomorrow will be a heavier day of touring.

A Nice Pre-sabbatical Warm Up

Last night (Friday) I attended a concert put on by the group Cordancia. This is a chamber orchestra (about 36 musicians) local to Rochester that likes to play music that’s a little off the beaten path. As it says in last night’s bulletin, “The ensemble’s programs blend eclectic, vibrant music with traditional classic repertoire.” I was pleased to see eleven colleagues from my own orchestra, the Penfield Symphony Orchestra, including my friends, Dana Hyuge and Dave Lane, and our conductor, David Harman.

It was an enjoyable and interesting concert. I heard nothing familiar, and that was a good thing. I especially enjoyed a piece by Samuel Barber titled “Summer in Knoxville. It featured an excellent young soprano, Natasha Drake. Her final lines in this piece brought me to tears. All the pieces were performed at a very high level of musicianship. The acoustics were not helpful to the upper strings, as the pews conspired to block their sound. But we all could still hear them, and throughout the music was beautiful, energetic, soulful, and fun.

My sabbatical starts on Wednesday (April 25), and this was a perfect way to anticipate my time of rest and renewal, especially considering my intended focus on music.

Thank you, Cordancia, for helping to get me ready.

On the Way to a Sabbatical

My sabbatical starts in a little more than 6 weeks.

Yikes!

I feel that just preparing for the sabbatical is like a second job. There is so much to do, and much has already been done.

People ask me what I will do on my sabbatical. As Winnie the Pooh said, “It’s a long story, and even longer when I tell it.”

The title I gave to the proposal that led to my receiving a grant is “Calling in Counterpoint: A Musical Exploration of Pastoral Vocation.” What I have in mind with that title is something along these lines:

Identity and calling are complicated for pastors — not only pastors, of course, but surely them. Myself, I wear many hats: husband, father, preacher, teacher, administrator, counselor, musician, academic, child of God, follower of Christ. Even though it can be difficult to live into all those roles, I would not want to give up any of them. They are all, somehow, part of my calling.

It occurred to me that perhaps music can be used to explore and understand calling better. As most of you reading this know, I love music deeply. Maybe my experience and passion for music can help me explore pastoral vocation.

In particular, I think the idea of musical counterpoint may be a useful way of approaching the struggle of understanding and living into the pastoral calling. The great masters of counterpoint take musical lines and weave them together into something greater (think of “Zion hört die Wächter singen” from Bach’s cantata “Wachet Auf”) — playing each off against each other, giving first one then another its time and space, yet always in interaction with the others.

I believe that likewise my life, and the living and working of a pastor, may be better understood and lived as an exercise in spiritual counterpoint, in which my own several “melodies” find their true connection with each other only as they sing in relation to a more fundamental line sung by the Triune God, who makes music in threefold yet one eternal relationship, into which other lesser musicians are invited.

In my sabbatical, I will do a lot with music. I want to listen to music, play music, and compose (or arrange) music. I will also develop my thoughts on calling and counterpoint, identity and music, so that I can write an article on it.

The music starts in a big way at the very beginning of the sabbatical. On April 25, Tammi and I will fly to England. We’ll attend a concert of the BBC orchestra featuring the work of Arvo Pärt. We’ll go to evensong, and attend Westminster Abbey. We’ll go to pubs and hear live music. Maybe we’ll encounter street musicians.

This is a big thing for us, as neither Tammi nor I have been to any other country besides Canada.

There will be more music when I’m stateside. The International Viola Congress is meeting in Rochester at the end of May. I’ll attend that, plus some concerts of the Rochester Philharmonic. In early June I may be going to Washington state for a “Living Liturgy” workshop, one of whose leaders is Marty Haugen, whose music I love. I intend to go to Tanglewood to hear a world premiere of a double concerto by Edgar Meyer featuring him and Joshua Bell as soloists.

Needless to say, I’m so excited I almost can’t stand it.

In between performance events, I’ll be working on my own music: practicing viola, composing pieces. And with all of that as counterpoint, I’ll be working at the article.

Some of this will be at home, some will be at retreat centers and camps and even hotels as I attend other things. One week will be at a lake house of the family of some good friends. And at the end the sabbatical, I hope to offer a casual recital with friends.

And yet, in all this, I hope to rest. I need to rest. What I have described may not sound restful to some. But being able for a time to step aside from the relentless week-after-week of sermon and worship preparation, as well as the meetings and the pastoral visits will certainly feel restful to me. I love these things, but I need to rest from them so I can be renewed for them.

Good music also consists of rests, after all.

Why I Am (and Am Not) Taking a Sabbatical

As I said in my first post, I will be taking a three month sabbatical starting on April 25. I’ll say more next time about what I’ll be doing. Today I want to cover my reasons for taking a sabbatical.

The word “sabbatical” comes from “sabbath.” This suggests that it should have something to do with rest, and that would be rest not as in sloth but rather the kind of rest that has its God as its origin and goal.

It’s not that way for everybody who uses this word. I have a number of friends who teach in seminaries, and for them sabbatical is not mainly a time for rest but rather for work of a different kind. They use the time to finish the book that will get them tenured or promoted. “Publish or perish.” Or, as it was for my beloved dissertation advisor, Charles Wood, it would be the break from teaching and other responsibilities as your final chapter at the university. I think they call it “terminal leave,” which sounds very disturbing.

Among ministers, we find an attempt to retrieve the sabbath aspects of sabbatical. So the ideal is for the person on sabbatical to reconnect with the holy rhythms that God has built into the structure of creation. This would involve a temporary cessation from the typical activities of one’s “professional life,” so that one can eventually be made stronger for it. It would involve work of different kind, perhaps more intensive and focused “soul work,” than what is typically possible in the relentless demands of pastoral work.

That’s the ideal. Of course, in real life sometimes the ideal doesn’t happen. And so there are pastors who take sabbaticals in order to look for a new job. There are pastors whose sabbaticals are indistinguishable from vacations. There are pastors who say they’re on sabbatical and yet are still seen frequently at their places of ministry.

I would like this to be very clear to all my friends: I am not taking a sabbatical to figure out if I am going to stay in my ministry at Trinity Church. Rather, I am taking a sabbatical so that I can stay (God willing). And not merely stay, as in hanging around with no passion, by simply coasting along. Rather, I want to stay here well, and I believe that the sabbatical is an excellent way to do that. Indeed, it might be my only way.

It is my expectation and desire to use the sabbatical as a time of renewal. It’s a wonderful gift of time. In it I will have not only room for rest but also space to create.

More about that soon.