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Some good news and some more good news

I have some good news and some good news. The first item of good news has to do with a big, fat white envelope that appeared in my mailbox several days ago. As many of you know, in May I mailed off an application to the Lilly Endowment for one of their Clergy Renewal Grants. Each year, the Endowment gives over one hundred grants to pastors and congregations to support them in a season of renewal and Sabbath.

As part of my application, I wrote up a proposal for a three-month “Sabbath,” a season of renewal and rest and prayer, to take place next fall from September 1-December 1. It was a lengthy application process, and I’m so grateful for those of you who met with me and prayed with me as I mailed it off in May.

Well, my application was approved! We have been granted funds that will support the congregation in my absence and allow me to do some things to deepen my prayer life. I will travel on a prayer retreat to Iona, Scotland; I’ll go with my family to Yosemite; David and I will get some time together in the mountains of North Carolina; and the list goes on. My plan is to design a prayer journal for all of us in the congregation to use during those three months, so that together we can dedicate ourselves to deeper practices of prayer, Sabbath and rest. You’ll be hearing more as the time approaches, but I wanted to share the exciting news with you as soon as I could.

This “season of prayer” next fall is just another piece of the work that God is doing among us as a congregation. I believe that God has been hard at work moving us into a deeper prayer life together. This past Sunday we heard from two leaders of our burgeoning Prayer Ministry, which is providing us with lots of different avenues for prayer and spiritual formation. For just a couple of examples, there’s a new Sunday School class on centering prayer, and there are people coming to the church to pray for committees as they meet and do their work. God is really doing some amazing things in us and through us.

Which brings me to the next piece of good news. This Sunday, October 28, Bishop Joe Pennel will be with us for the whole morning. Bishop Pennel has been special to me and my family since the late 1980s when he first became our pastor. But he has continued to be a mentor and a wise guide for me over the years. He brings a spiritual groundedness to everything he does, and he will be with us to talk about prayer. He will preach in both worship services and will lead a class on prayer during the Sunday School hour in the Sanctuary. I, for one, am really looking forward to learning from him.

I hope that you will be here on the 28th as we learn more about prayer and ways that we as individuals and as a congregation can grow more in love with God each day.