A love letter to the congregation

May 1, 2016

Dear church family,

It’s hard to believe it’s already May, but the calendar doesn’t lie. As you probably know, my sabbatical begins on May 9, with a special “sending service” on the morning of May 8 at our regular 10:00 worship time.  I do hope you’ll be able to join us for that.

The planning for this sabbatical has been as thorough as we’re able to make it. Under the leadership of Guy Payne (chair of Trustees) and Charlotte Gifford (chair of Deacons), a steering committee has pulled together programming related to our grant. Plans are in the works for a day of experiencing Ignatian Spiritual Practices under the leadership of Ginny Blass (June 11), exploring Earth Based Spiritual Practices with Fran Weinbaum (June 18, 9-2), and deepening our understanding of how best to build community in our rural context, led by Lori Hanau (July 9, 9-2 … and then again October 23 in the afternoon and evening). In addition, the deacons are lining up preachers from within our congregation and from other sources, and Fred and Malcolm will continue to provide our music.

We have also arranged for emergency pastoral care, to be provided by Pastor Mark Koyama, who has worshipped with us a few times this winter and spring. Mark impressed us with his steady, calm and approachable presence, his humor, and his openness to our somewhat non-traditional way of doing church. Mark will preach for us twice this summer, and will be on call to assist in crises on the order of funerals or serious illness and that sort of thing. (Needless to say, it is everyone’s fond hope that he is not needed for any of these situations!) Our Deacons will be the ones who determine when or if he’s called upon. They have arranged a schedule of coverage and will be publishing the phone number of a dedicated phone, so if difficult situations do arise, they will help determine if Mark’s help is needed.

As for me, I will be away! If you’re a denizen of Facebook, you may see my posts there, but I will not be checking my church email. (Boy, that’ll be hard, actually!) I may see some of you around town, as I’ll be at home for part of the sabbatical. If I do see you, don’t hesitate to come up to me and give me a squeeze ~ I’m going to miss you all and will be happy to greet you. I’ll be actually out of town May 14-24, June 19-July 18 and July 25-29.

I covet your prayers … for myself and my family as we travel, for our congregation as we take on the tasks of caring for one another and learning new ways of being the church in our community, for our growth and vitality! Meanwhile, I plan to maintain my discipline of holding time on Thursday afternoons for prayers for our community. My exact timing will depend on what time zone I’m in, of course, but if you think of it on any Thursday between 1:00 and 1:30, please know I’ll be praying with you.

I remain incredibly grateful: for you, individually and as a congregation. I’m grateful for your generosity in encouraging me to pursue this opportunity for Sabbath rest and adventure with my family (whom I also feel to be very deserving of a little bit of fun!). I’m grateful for the Lilly Endowment, which makes this all possible. And I’m grateful to God, for God’s love that underpins all that is good in life, and for God’s steadfast presence.

Blessings to you all this summer. I can’t wait to see you again!

in resurrection faith,