The last time I wrote an essay with that title, I was in Mrs. Rush’s fourth grade class in Mississippi. I don’t miss her, and I bet she never missed me. It was little more than a paragraph handwritten on wide ruled notebook paper torn out of a Mead single subject notebook. I can still see it, but I cannot remember what I wrote.
This past summer would never fit on one page. It was multifaceted and gifted in so many ways by so many people. It was not just me either; Amy and our children and I got to be a family in a way that we never have in day-to-day life, both in terms of new places and experiences, and also for a length of time that is nothing short of a wonder in today’s world.
We traveled and walked in places that I have read and studied about for years, following Columba, Cuthbert, Bede, Hilda, Margery, Julian, and countless other saints, kings, and queens through landscapes of myth, legend, and history. It is the landscape that gave birth to our version of the faith we share.
As I wrote to you before I left, I went to study the influence of Benedictine thought on the Anglican church and tradition. I did that with Martin Thornton’s English Spirituality as my guide. Thornton led me through the development of our tradition and particularly the role of the pastor in that tradition. As I learned and studied, I also prayed and struggled my way through decisions, consequences, and feelings I had buried over the last several years of ministry. It was a time of confession, forgiveness, and healing. It was also a time for renewal, purpose, and vision.
My family and I are deeply grateful for the time this summer, and for the support, prayers, and love that surrounded us. Many people gave us money and gifts, suggestions and recommendations, and we are thankful for them. I want to thank the Vestry and staff for their leadership and work both before and during our travels. I also want to join in the thanks for the Rev. Kathryn King for her leadership, calm, and work. To be able to go away and come home without worrying about the church is a profound Grace not every pastor has. Thank you.
We will have a time to share photographs and stories from our family this fall, and I will be teaching about my studies and experiences on Wednesday nights starting in September.
Now, life isn’t all gardens and sunshine. This summer was mostly gardens and sunshine, but there is also work to be done. I am glad to be home refreshed and renewed and ready to begin the year as your pastor.
Our focus right now is learning how to Welcome, Worship, Study, and Serve. These are the things we are called to do as disciples of Jesus. I was reminded of my role in teaching you to do these things and to helping you teach others.
Mrs. Rush wasn’t just getting an irascible youth to remember the past, but she was also getting him to set it aside for the work ahead.
Paul reminds us to “Not be conformed to this world, but to be renewed by the transforming of your minds, so that you may discern the will of God.” Today we begin again our transformation into the children of God, the church of Christ, a Spiritual people of prayer, wisdom, and love.