This past week I have been reflecting on what sabbatical meant for me and what returning to the congregation has been like. Today, I thought I would share a few thoughts on both of these topics.
First and foremost it is great to be back with Christ Presbyterian Church. To say I missed the church would be an understatement. In the beginning stages of my time away there was a sense of relief. For the first time in forever, I was free from the “daily demands” of ministry. Shutting down email and realizing that the next four months of congregational ministry weren’t something I should or really could worry about was freeing. Yet, in the end, especially the last few weeks, I was left with a yearning. The cliché, “absence makes the heart grow fonder” really is true. I found myself ready to come back to the congregation I love and the people who comprise it.
That’s not to say that there wasn’t a bit of anxiety about my return. After all, I really had no idea what was happening in the life of Christ Presbyterian Church. That is a very strange place to be. Even when I arrived as a newly called pastor, I felt like I knew more. Thankfully, I also knew that we have great leadership at Christ Presbyterian Church and the work we have done to build a strong spiritual community. I knew that God’s Spirit would be present in the congregation and all would be well.
The deep and loving welcome I received upon my return was all the testimony I needed that God was working in the midst of our congregation. Seeing the smiling faces and continued love that everyone has for each calmed most of my nerves.
Yet, coming back has been a bit strange. Last week I think I came up with an image for how it sometimes has felts. Have you ever seen videos of people trying to get on a treadmill that was going at a runners pace. Normally they are in the category of “fail videos.” Life at Christ Presbyterian Church has gone on while I was away. Much like the person trying to get on the treadmill I need to be careful. This is especially true do to my desire to change some of my less than helpful patterns. Coming back from sabbatical I know that I need to make sure that I am being mindful of my own needs as well as the congregations.
Many of the “things” I have normally been charged with caring for have been led by other people. Figuring out the appropriate way to reintegrate is not something that has an owner’s manual. Like much of the sabbatical process we have been figuring it out as we are in the throws of it.
My approach has been to focus on relationships. I know that there are many “business concerns” that need to be dealt with but sabbatical taught me that none of that could be done well if we aren’t fostering spiritual relationships. That is perhaps the biggest takeaway from sabbatical I have gleaned. One thing I let happen over the past few years was to allow stuff to get in the way of people. The pressure to get “things done” pushed the vital need for relationship to be pushed to the side. I know that I cannot do that now or in the future. I also know that when those relationships have been the strongest in our life together we have been the most spiritually vital.
The sabbatical time that Christ Presbyterian afforded me was a great spiritual blessing. I will be eternally grateful for this gift. I ask that you pray for my continued growth and application of sabbatical lessons. Finally, I look forward to reconnecting with everyone and seeing where God will lead us next.