Hello St. Mark’s!
All good things must come to an end. So it is true of my sabbatical- who knew 61 days could go by so fast? This has truly been a wonderful time to travel, rest, and spend time with my family; I am grateful for that chance you have given me. And as the time approaches, I find I am looking forward to returning to parish ministry with you, and continuing the work we have been doing for almost seven years.
Most of my sabbatical was spent as a stay-at-home dad, getting to cook, work on some projects around the house, and spend more time with my family. (There was also some Netflix in there) I had several “hands on” projects that kept me busy, including building a “smart” garage door opener (controlled from my iphone- I’ll be glad to demonstrate!), a backup server, replacing a broken computer screen, and replacing the worn-out movement in my mantle clock with a battery powered one (#GeekSabbatical). Gaius and I got to spend a week on the beach with my dad, with Katy joining us for a few days at the end. It was good to sit and watch the waves even if it was too cold to swim. I find the ocean to be one of the places in the world that calms my soul.
And finally, Katy, Gaius, and I spend nine days in London for my first trip abroad, a trip we had been planning for quite some time. We toured the Globe Theatre, saw the Tower of London, attended church at All Hallows by the Tower (the oldest church in London), visited Stone Henge, and had a day in Paris. For me, it was the trip of a lifetime. It is quite the experience to take Communion in a church that is over 1300 years old, to stand on Roman pavement, and to walk amidst a mysterious Stone Henge built 5000 years ago. I am sure it will provide sermon stories for years to come!
Yesterday, Rev. Amber and I had lunch to catch me up, and I cleaned out all of my email. I was quite impressed with everything that you have been working on since we last spoke at the annual meeting. Amber tells me that the name tag initiative has gone well, and I thank you for that. It is the next logical step in continuing our welcoming spirit as we continue to grow in size and in touching hearts and lives. I’ll do my best to remember mine on Sunday! And of course, the nave floor is being repaired, which I admit to sneaking over periodically to see how it was coming along. Today, with most of the nave flooring in place, I knew we had once again “done it right.” Much like the narthex remodel, I think this will soon feel just like home. It looks beautiful, and I cannot wait to return to our beautiful worship space once again on Palm Sunday. Do you know what every church in London has in common? Tile flooring. 🙂
I also discovered, as I visited different churches on my sabbatical, that St. Mark’s has a top notch music program. My sincere thanks goes out to Rhonda and our choirs for all their hard work in making it what it is. It was nice to visit churches and constantly compare them to St. Mark’s, joyfully discovering that home was better.
The next few months will bring some significant transitions at St. Mark’s: Amber will be completing her curacy and moving to Little Rock, and on July 1 we will be welcoming a new curate. As Amber will surely agree, the first parish you have out of seminary is a very important one. I am glad the bishop thinks highly enough of St. Mark’s to send not only one new priest fresh out of seminary (that’s me!), but also soon to be three curates. When I first arrived in Jonesboro in June of 2009, many of you told me that you felt as though St. Mark’s was a “priest killing” congregation. Surely St. Mark’s has now become a priest-training congregation, something of which you should be proud.
As we restart our ministry together, I am focused this year on better pastoral care, and in creating a few more small groups that can be places of welcome and belonging for new members as they visit our parish. I also believe that one of our missions, in addition to bringing people closer to God in worship and living, is to be a place where relationships can exist in ways they would not otherwise be possible. To be connected to someone different than you, to pray with someone who disagrees with you, to have conversation around topics that divide our society, while remembering that what unites us is greater and deeper than any of them. We are the light of the world, Amber reminded us in last month’s Missive, and there is a lot of darkness out there. Jonesboro needs to hear the good news of a loving God in a deep and meaningful tradition, and that sounds a whole lot like what we have to offer.
I look forward to Sunday and worshipping with you again. I am told it will be in the parish hall one more week, but I do think the delay is worth it. Before you know it, the red carpet aisle will be back and our 2016 Lenten exile will be a character-building memory. I will be at the Coffee with the Rector this week at 9am in the chapel.
See you Sunday, and God bless,
(I am pretty sure this is a TARDIS)