Monday, May 3, we begin a four month sabbatical to rest, be renewed and reflect. I'm grateful for the opportunity for this life-changing adventure, both for us and for our congregation. Please pray for our safety, for God to be at work, and for all of us to grow in our love for God, for each other and for the world. I want to share with you a few more details so you can be with us on our Journey with Jesus through Pilgrimage and Practices.
Our pilgrimage to historic places provides the learning and inspiration. We will pattern our lives around seven spiritual practices: paying attention, a rhythm of prayer alone and in community, reading, asking God for direction, solitude, simplifying or letting go, and gratitude.
Part of unplugging means I will not be checking church email or taking my cell phone. I encourage you to "follow me" as I occasionally post notes and photos to my blog mikemcclenahan.blogspot.com.
I've shared with you previously about the timing of our sabbatical. There's never a good time to be gone for four months, always reasons to postpone, or delay. But there are also great reasons to take this time away and I believe God has timed this just right: Amy and I are celebrating our 25th wedding anniversary in June, turning 50 this year, and celebrating 20 years of ordained ministry. Amy and I will share this sabbatical together, giving us an extended period of time to live an adventure in this banner year in our lives. Our marriage will benefit from our time together traveling, exploring, discovering, praying, worshipping, celebrating and resting together.
I want to encourage you to be as active and committed to your own journey and to the life of our church in my absence as you already are. Continue to worship God in community. Continue to belong to each other. Continue to grow in your small group. Continue to serve with uncommon generosity. Continue to impact the world. Please support Pastor Barry Moller as acting head of staff and the rest of the staff as they lead in my absence. We have worked hard together as a session and a staff to develop priority goals, department goals and a financial plan for our next ministry year beginning July 1. We also have great teams working on our worship services, Generations Campaign and Building Committee. I'm grateful for our church leadership and their willingness to work ahead of schedule so that I can be gone for these four months.
The message series through beginning May 9 and continuing through Labor Day, "Companions for the Journey," will focus on biblical characters (the "great cloud of witnesses") whose examples help us to live faithfully on the journey. Support those who are preaching each week—pray for them and encourage them as they preach God's word. This is a great time for them to preach or preach more, and for you to learn from great men and women who serve on our staff.
There may be times in my absence when you are disappointed--ask God to show you what he wants you to learn in that disappointment. There are also going to be times of discovery and joy—ask God to help you celebrate and give thanks.
With all that in mind, Amy and I are excited about what we have planned:
Tour of Israel
A group pilgrimage of the Holy Land, visiting the biblical sites around the Sea of Galilee, the Dead Sea and Jerusalem, with 26 from our congregation. This is our first trip and I know it will be life changing!
May 14-May 21
A week in Rome to debrief the Holy Land. We will enjoy a private tour the Vatican Museum and Gardens, a papal audience and be immersed in this great city from which Christianity spread in the first 300 years.
May 22-June 19
A month in a small village near Assisi, Italy, home of St. Francis and St. Clare, who through simplicity grew in their love for the world as they grew in their love for God. We will experience the simple rhythm of prayer and reflection.
June 20-July 2
Living in a convent and taking two courses in Orvieto, Italy, on medieval art and spirituality through the Fuller Seminary Brehm Center for Worship and the Arts. We are excited to learn and pray in community with other students.
Kiev and Moscow
Join our Chancel Choir and Bells of Praise in Kiev, Ukraine, and Moscow, Russia. I'll preach alongside the choir and spend time with pastors and leaders, learning about how our partners are meeting needs of their communities with the love of God.
A week of vacation in England, southwest of London.
We join in spiritual retreat at the Northumbria Community in northern England--a community inspired by the 7th century monastic community on the Holy Island of Lindesfarne--sharing meals, prayer, and worship in a daily rhythm.
July 25-August 8
A week on the island of Iona, Scotland, where St. Columba spread Christianity from Ireland in the 6th century. We will participate in the spiritual community that gathers at the historic Abbey of Iona. We are also interested in exploring our ancestry and spiritual roots in Scotland and England.
About ten days of vacation in London before returning to the states.
August 21-September 12
We will be careful to transition back into ministry at SBPC. Ahead is an exciting fall of Celebrating the Journey (sharing with each other what God taught us while we were apart) and beginning our Generations Campaign in October, and enjoying the All Church Retreat in November.
See you Sunday May 2, and again in September.