A Red Letter Year
Our theme of pilgrimage and practices took us places we would not have been otherwise. Traveling to historic Christian sites—Rome, Assisi, Lindisfarne and Iona and practicing a consistent rhythm of prayer alone and together with others made our time very rich. We missed our family and church family, but God made us keenly aware of opportunities to connect with strangers, new friends, and communities where God is at work in simple and profound ways.
Our return home taught us so much. It’s transformative to hit the reset button. No work emails for four months. No accessible cell phone. No concerns, because we left with a wonderful staff and lay leadership who stepped up in my absence, which I found does make the heart grow fonder. I missed preaching and came back with a renewed energy. I think we were missed, not just in general, but for the gifts we uniquely bring to our church family. One of my staff told me, “Thank you for setting an example for us of taking care of you and getting away with Amy.” That feels gratifying.
The rhythm of daily prayer has stuck with us. Amy and I continue to pray together ancient Celtic liturgy for Morning Prayer over coffee and Compline prayer right before bed. It gives our day a framework to seek after God together and to sleep with his protection and under his care.
We also learned about opening new doors without fear. After four months of opening restaurant doors, B and B doors, church doors, and apartment doors, we learned to trust God with the new adventure with faith. Those doors are either doors of welcome and hospitality (for which we are grateful) or doors of challenge and faith (for which we attentive to what God is doing). Either way, they represent an adventure and an opportunity to grow.
This fall the door of our Generations Campaign was an important door to walk through as soon as we returned. Reaching back 65 years to those who stepped out in faith to provide what we enjoy now, we were inspired as a church to step out in faith as well with our own praying, giving and serving. We united around 21 days of prayer and a day of prayer and fasting, as well as a vision to provide beyond ourselves to the next generation and future generations of children. About 1000 people came to a lunch or dinner, 500 families contributed cash or pledges totally almost $7 million, including $2.5 million in cash. In this economy? God has shown himself to be faithful and our church has responded with generosity.
But for me personally, I grew in my own faith of what God can do in me and through me. I never led a campaign before. I never talked about money so much or casted a vision so extensive or so costly. And I never felt so certain that I was the right person in the right place to use my gifts of leadership, vision casting and preaching.