A change of pace
I think all organizations to a certain degree like to get into a routine. This gives members an opportunity to figure out which procedures are in place and as a result they feel more secure and confident. I don’t think the church is any different. There is a certain peacefulness to having the rhythms of life of the church be predictable. It’s like a nice smooth current can float on. It is made up of the small traditions of the local church: the worship patterns, the social time, the hymns sung and the prayers said, the ebb and flow of seasons. Underneath there is a stronger and deeper current of two thousand years of church tradition that feeds the water on which we find ourselves afloat. It can be a refuge from the chaotic, unpredictable world that we are exposed to all the time, in real time. It is a place where the rhythms of life are changing and even the seasons are no longer dependable and we encounter extremes we are not accustomed to. From one year to the next the azaleas may bloom in October rather than only in May. So to find our church open and welcoming on any given Sunday, rain or shine, damp and cold or scorching hot and be guaranteed to find friendly, familiar faces is a comfort we treasure.
Nevertheless the church is not just supposed to be a refuge or a place to heal our wounds, it also exists to embrace change and even to give birth to it. I believe this small congregation called Parkview has been pretty good at being a catalyst of change over the years. Now with our residency program back in gear, we are able to do something almost no other church does: host a resident in inter-cultural ministry on our premises. This does not only take us a bit out of the routine we had fallen back into over the last seven months, but it also takes the residents out of theirs. In fact it is much more of an adjustment for them. It means a change of pace for you and a change of pace for the resident, in this case Chelsea Page.
I myself am going to give in to a change of pace also. I am into my twenty-second year as your pastor and it is time for my second sabbatical, although it may turn out to be more of a semi-sabbatical. The way I am going to take it is not the way it is generally recommended. I will actually be “around” most Sundays, although I will be not leading worship, starting the third Sunday in August, past the second half of October. Chelsea will be doing that and because of her experience and talent I know you will be in very good hands. But I expect to be in church most Sundays (a week or so of the period will be vacation). There is a reason for spending my second sabbatical this way. First, I have an obligation to our resident and I find being a mentor to our residents very meaningful. Second, I didn’t feel quite right being away for an extended period of time this late in my tenure. Third, it is way to prevent the congregation from incurring unnecessary costs. So besides reading and writing, mentorship will be my focus. Now there are already other work obligations that have made their way into the sabbatical, but I am going to try to keep them to a minimum. There is a set pattern to my pastoral life that generally works for me, but it is good to break out of it as I may wind up doing things in a fresh new way. For example, the three part sermon format was a result of my other sabbatical.
I hope that you too will find a way to change the pace of your life, perhaps this summer, to find a way to do things a little differently and break the routine. It may give you a new perspective. May God bless our routines and our changes of pace as we engage in the work of the Church. Aart