The SPIRE – May 2019

Dear Edwards Church Community,

Twenty years ago, when I was the moderator of a Unitarian Universalist church that walked and talked like a UCC church, our senior minister went on sabbatical. No full-time stand-in was hired, and we were still fine. The other full-time minister was quite capable of preaching, leading worship and providing pastoral care. We also had lots of guest preachers, averaging two or three per month. This spring and summer I will be taking a three-month sabbatical, and you will be fine.

Just as I did last summer when Deb was on sabbatical, she will be here throughout my sabbatical (other than a week or so, when we will arrange pastoral care coverage). Deb will preach a couple of times (including “Christmas in July,” on 7-21), and I am well into arranging additional guest preachers (including “guest” preachers from within). Many of us already know from personal experience what sensitive, grounded and effective pastoral care Deb provides. We will be fine.

For my sabbatical I have these goals:

– to come back rested and refreshed, physically, emotionally, and spiritually;

– to learn through reading and experience more about Celtic Christianity;

– to spend time with family, including my extended family; and

– as time allows, to begin learning more about elder group homes, because I want to explore that model as an option for members of my generation (the Baby Boomers) who have not saved well for retirement.

In May, I’ll take two weeks of “pre-sabbatical,” leaving after worship on May 5 and returning in time for worship May 19. Part of that time will be a four day visit with our younger daughter Mollie in Chicago, spending time with her, her fiancée and his parents. Then from May 13-17 I will be in Minneapolis, attending the Festival of Homiletics, a series of lectures, workshops, worship services, and sing-alongs, all devoted to the craft of worship and preaching.

From Sunday May 19 through Sunday June 9, I’ll be in Northampton, doing all the things I normally do. On the evening of June 9 I’ll fly to Ireland, where I’ll be for two weeks. The first week I’ll be hiking in Northern Ireland with one of my younger sisters, staying in cottages and enjoying day hikes. The second week I have a six day retreat lined up at the Tearmann Spirituality Centre in Glendalough, in the south.

Their web site states: “These retreats begin on Sunday evening and conclude on … Saturday morning. These retreats incorporate elements of Celtic Spirituality, Creation Spirituality, walking in nature, mindfulness and meditation, but all inspired by the life and Spirit of Jesus Christ. We begin our day with guided meditation in the morning and in the evening we gather to celebrate the Eucharist and share our experiences of the day. The rest of the day is free to walk, reflect, pray or do what you feel your spirit is drawing you to do on your own.”

I passed through Glendalough 14 years ago with our son Patrick, when he was 14, and so look forward to this retreat. The national park there is so beautiful and tranquil!

The next week I will spend 5 days with my wife Frances, who will be between teaching assignments in Paris. We’ll meet in Barcelona, where we have never been, and enjoy exploring its art, architecture, food and sun splashed summer days. When Frances heads back to work, I will head to Glasgow, Scotland to begin an eight day walk of the West Highland Way with our son Patrick. He is a hard working filmmaker in Austin, TX. I look forward to spending time outdoors with him and catching up over a week’s worth of dinners.

In early or mid-July (still TBD), I will return to the United States, still on sabbatical until I return to Northampton to lead worship on Sunday, August 18 and 25. I hope to squeeze in more learning and extended family visits during July and the first half of August. Then I will be using a vacation week August 26 through Labor Day weekend, as our older daughter Eleanor, her husband, and our new grandson will be coming to visit.

I am deeply grateful for this opportunity to down shift into sabbatical mode, and I am committed to using it well, so that I return not only refreshed but renewed for the ministry that we share. Deb, Heather, and our Moderator Leon Drzewianoski will know how to reach me, should that become necessary. While I am away, I encourage you to use the time well. Experience different worship leaders and preachers. Notice things.  And then when I am back, let’s talk.

Blessings,

Michael

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