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Renewal Leave in Fall 2013

What a glorious Easter morning we celebrated together! The choir, the trumpets, the organ, the white paraments and calalilies, the prayers and the readings all combined together to proclaim the joy and surprise of Jesus Christ’s resurrection. I am grateful to God for all who offered themselves in worship yesterday, and I thank you for helping to lift my heart to God in praise. I hope that the joy of resurrection continues to grow in us as we move through this Easter season.

As we begin this new season in the church and look ahead toward the weeks to come, I would like to ask for your prayers and for your participation in something. A spiritual journey of sorts. For me and for all of us, I hope. Let me start at the end and work backwards. In the fall of 2013 (that’s 17 months away), I would like to take a three-month renewal leave.

Several months ago I began to think and pray about what a renewal leave might mean for me. I knew it was encouraged by the United Methodist Church and it has been a policy in our congregation as well. But, was it right for me? If so, when? And what would I do with those three months? Then in February I preached a sermon about Jesus’ going to “a deserted place all by himself to pray.” In that sermon I talked about cell phones and noise and busy-ness that so often keep us from paying attention to God. I talked about stepping away from “doing” in order to simply “be” with God.

Well, that sermon did a number on me. It helped me see that one of the best things I could do for myself, my ministry and for our congregation would be to take some time to devote myself to prayer, silence and listening. My desire to take three months for prayer and renewal does not come from exhaustion (even though I’m writing this on the day after Easter!) or from burn-out. I am nowhere near either of those things. It comes out of a deep desire to be with God in quiet, unhurried ways. To step away from doing and spend some time being with God.

As all of this was coming together in my heart, a colleague of mine reminded me that the Lilly Foundation offers grants to pastors wishing to take renewal leave. After meeting with Staff-Parish and receiving their blessing, I called together a handful of people to help me pray, discern and design a program of renewal. The grant application is long and involved, and it is all due on May 11. It’s exciting to see how God is working in all of this, as the plans begin to take shape. As part of this process, I want to invite you into this journey with me. I want to share with you my dreams for this special time away, and I want to hear your feedback and how this time might help the congregation as well.

So, I would like to invite you into conversation. I’ll be in the Sanctuary on Sunday, April 22, at 9:45 to share more with you and listen to your thoughts. I’ll also be available on Wednesday, April 25, at 6:00 in the Commons. Please join me on this journey. I believe God has some wonderful work to do in us, and I’d like to see what you think. Grace and peace and, once again, Happy Easter!