It really is good to be back! I missed St. John’s and all of you, for our mission together as well as our sense of family, worship and activity. I have already said and want to repeat that I appreciated the permission session gave to me for taking a sabbatical. Even though it is a policy for pastors to take one every 10 years, it is still a gift and everyone has been so accommodating and supportive, especially Theresa. She closed the gap with my being away. I also thank you for your many prayers, which I experienced sustaining me in some very challenging times. I knew that I was not alone, that I was representing St. John’s and because I was speaking on your behalf I also found a greater welcome from those with whom I found myself.
Although I was away for four months it was a combination of study leave at our Presbyterian General Assembly in Detroit, sabbatical in Palestine and vacation with Nancy in Greece.
To have spoken at the Assembly in favor of divestment from three corporations that contribute to the violence and oppression of the Israeli occupation of Palestine, and for that to have passed, albeit by seven votes out of 600, was a landmark experience. Everyone in Palestine knew what we had done, and celebrated what was a financially small, but a huge symbolic step.
To have spent a month in Palestine, to be in one place at rest, even though I walked many miles and drove many more, was a wonderfully reflective, learning experience, with many new relationships and old ones reinforced. I came away with a greater sense of understanding the situation on the ground and the people who must endure them. I came away with the confidence to speak of the situation, no longer having doubts, and most importantly no longer having fears of what I need to say and what others need be hear.
If you have not checked out my blog from that month you can do so at the pastors blog on this website. Believe me when I say that I tried not to bore you, to keep it brief and to include pictures that inform as well. I’m happy to share more of my experience with you as you ask, and come January. I plan to have a class about what is happening in Israel Palestine, hopefully for your greater understanding and perhaps involvement.
I also, while away, reflected on my ministry over the years and into the future, the role of the church and mine within it. I looked at scripture with fresh and renewed eyes. I considered our part as a denomination within the world churches and our part in transformation, bringing forth the kingdom of God. I looked at my failures and my satisfaction in ministry, my limits and opportunities, and most of all what I understood to be the new sense of God’s call in my life. It was not always easy to ponder, but I truly feel invigorated!
I spent many hours during my sabbatical reading, bicycling and finding worship at other churches. Nothing compares to St. John’s. We are a gifted place with gifted people, mostly because of our sense of availability, a willingness to serve, to share the love and justice of Jesus Christ. I can’t wait to be around you for many, many more years – as long as you will have me.