There and Back Again: A Pastor’s Reformation Sabbatical Adventure – #1

I’ve always thought that I would enjoy “blogging” or something like it because I like writing and reflecting on life and on my life, but I’ve never quite been able to figure it out or find my “voice.” I think I get caught trying to figure out what is between a personal journal (which I also keep) and something that is so “official” and bland that no one would want to read it (let alone write it!).

So, this sabbatical effort to post something fairly regularly about what I am doing and thinking will be an interesting discipline, that will hopefully get me over the hump.

I am writing from somewhere over the Atlantic Ocean on the way to Frankfurt, Germany to begin our Lands of Luther tour. I am a week into the sabbatical, and it’s been a bit of a crazy week packing and getting ready to be gone from home for almost 3 months.

My send off last Sunday on Holy Hilarity Sunday was wonderful. Janet Fisher told me after the 9am service that seeing Pastor Ron, Pastor Stacey, Julie Howell and myself up front leading and participating in the Liturgy of Sending and Blessing for the sabbatical brought tears to her eyes. I also felt moved and thankful to Good Shepherd for your generosity and commitment to my personal and spiritual well-being by granting me this sabbath/sabbatical time. In addition,  it was a great blessing to have my colleagues Pastor Ron and Pastor Stacey pronouncing such kind and wonderful words upon me. It felt like something larger than me was moving and at work in my life and in our life together. Knowing that I was leaving Good Shepherd in such good and capable pastoral hands was also quite a blessing. I believe good and great things will be happening not just for me but for the congregation over these next few months.

There was A LOT to do this past week. I’m not sure what I was thinking when I thought it would be a good idea to start my sabbatical a week after Easter. Although I have been working at it for quite awhile it was challenge to do much getting ready in the weeks before Holy Week.

This past week included a lot of packing, tying up loose ends, getting the house ready for my absence, and saying goodbye. In addition as anyone knows who got an email or note from me this past week (or Jan Marcus who has seen my haunting the Giant Eagle)  it was hard to let go of work and embrace sabbath. I also had a wedding to officiate at in Durham, NC over this past weekend. It was good to be back in a part  of the world that I love (I graduated from UNC – Chapel Hill), and the church I was married in over 30 years ago was just .8 miles from the hotel I was in for the wedding and I made a pilgrimage there. While my marriage did not survive the 30 plus years – it was still the best thing I ever did. It was also quite beautiful watching the bride and groom (whom I’ve known since he was a little boy) so overcome by the moment and their emotions they could hardly look at each other or speak while they were practicing their vows at the rehearsal

Just as the most challenging part of a wedding is getting everybody in and set at the start so the most challenging part of these trips is getting from home to the airport, through the check-in and past security. So now we are past all that, I’m enjoying a glass of wine after dinner and it’s all over but the shouting as they say.

It promises to be a great 10 day Lands of Luther trip. My sister Karen and daughter Brynn are along. Marc and Julie Howell, Karen and Terry Sewell, Niicky Cojocari and her sister Jean,  Carl and Michele Hyde and Pastor Ron (and myself) are here representing Good Shepherd, our former bishop (and my roommate for the trip) Wolfgang Herz-Lane – who as you might know or guess from his name grew up in Deutschland – and Dr. Timothy Wengert – the premier Reformation scholar in the ELCA – are with us along with pastor colleagues, friends new and old from other trips, our Luther book study and places ranging from California to Delaware and from Detroit, Michigan to Austin, Texas – 56 of us in all!

Bis bald,

Pastor Mark