Due to your kindness and the generosity of the Lilly Foundation for Clergy and Church Renewal, we will be on sabbatical this summer. A sabbatical is a time to rest, renew, and focus for the future. In my application for sabbatical I said that Eastminster has been “rowing the boat” diligently for the last 4 1/2 years, and now is a time “to let our souls catch up to our bodies.” It is a time to let God shape us.
The planning process for me to leave and reenter well has been going on for some time now. Pastors Kristy and Ron will assume some key pastoral duties. Pastor Kristy will moderate our Session and be responsible for overseeing the teams that prepare us for worship each week. Pastor Ron will serve as Head of Staff and oversee our pastoral and congregational care ministries. Director of Church Operations, Michelle Toms, will continue to be the primary contact for finance, facilities and administration. Eleni Yiapis will be leading the preschool in expanded summer programming. The support staff has reviewed their roles and are on point.
The overall purpose of the sabbatical is for congregational and clergy renewal under the theme “Rivers of Living Water.” This theme comes from John 7:37-39 which I will preach on this weekend. For the congregation, the Lilly grant provides funding for guest preachers and a special emphasis each month. Dr. Anna Florence Carter will lead workshops and preach on June 9- 10. In July there will be a weekend of “sanctified art,” including art that will be used and even made during the act of worship. In August, we will concentrate on our environment, particularly our “river of living water,” the Indian River Lagoon. My hope is that Eastminster will be prayerful and creative as the church enjoys experiencing new voices as well as established ones and deepens in faith and vitality.
As for me, the Lilly grant provides funds for travel to some wonderful places to experience various cultures and to rest and reflect. I will travel with family to Vietnam and Cambodia in June to experience some of the places my father served as a Naval Chaplain. Then four of the five family members will go to Bali and experience the culture and relax in later June and early July. In mid-late July Julie and I will be in Madagascar, where we will travel and do some mission work with Eastminster’s partners there. When we contribute to the 2 cents a meal offering as we will today, eighteen cents of every dollar goes to fight hunger in Madagascar, the fourth poorest country in all Africa. In August, we will return home shortly, and I will go to a monastery in New Jersey to fast, study and pray. Finally, we will camp and houseboat in the Western USA, returning home September 2. I’ll be back for staff and worship planning on September 4 and for Committee Night that evening and we resume life together. Look for a story from a different sabbatical context as it applies to Scripture each week in worship beginning September 9.
Thanks again for this opportunity! May this summer truly be “opportunity time” as we grow closer to God. Know that this is only a season away. I am firmly committed to Eastminster for the long haul. God has great things in store for Eastminster, and God willing, this will be a refreshing summer of spiritual growth where we more fully discern God’s will and guidance for the years ahead!