A Sabbatical Story: Part 1

I could get used to this . . . or could I? Tomorrow will be the third Sunday I have watched come and go, away from my work, my people, my pulpit, and the strangeness has given way to a deep sense of sabbath. Not the kind that comes from sleeping in, which I can't seem to do, or the kind that comes from doing nothing, because my agenda has been full almost every day. It's a lightness that springs from laying down my duties and leaving my daily burdens behind. It is an untroubled mind, free to explore new ideas and avenues, to create and recreate, to dream again without distraction or distress. It is a wonderful gift from the good people of Memorial, a blessing that not many pastors ever receive.

I began at home with a week to catch up on yard work and spend some extra time with my family over the July 4th weekend. Jake and I explored the battlefield at Gettysburg. And lots of baseball, God having brought the Royals to DC just in time to kick off my sabbatical. Win or lose, a good time was had by all.

The second week was spent in solitude, a personal retreat in the Blue Ridge mountains, a place called Eagle Eyrie. I had a quiet cabin to myself, managed my own meals, studied in the mornings, hiked in the afternoons, took some pictures, played my guitar, and sat in a rocker on the porch and listened to the rain. A wonderful way to spend time with my Boss without talking business. Nice to enjoy His companionship without an agenda. No urgent need, no crisis of the moment, no pressing deadline, just hanging out, being with the Big Guy. The days were too short.

After a brief pitstop back home, I hit the road following the U. S. Civil Rights Trail, visiting most of the sites related to the civil rights movement from 1948 - 1968. My brother and his wife are my companions on this unique pilgrimage. So far, we have experienced the lunch counter sit-ins in Greensboro, the inspiration of Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, the burning bus of Freedom Riders in Anniston, the peaceful marchers attacked with dogs and fire hoses in Birmingham, and today we walked across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma remembering the horrific violence of "Bloody Sunday."

As you may have figured out by now, I am building my sabbatical around the theme of religion and race. How does a person of faith deal with matters of race and how have Christians historically applied the Gospel to their relationships across racial lines personally and corporately? I have done extensive reading in preparation, and for the most part it is a sad and sobering story, a notorious blind spot in the eyes of many believers and churches. And of course, it's not just dark episodes from the Sixties. It's today, here and now. It's the glaring inconsistency of many who profess faith in Christ and yet practice subtle forms of racism if not outright bigotry.

Today marks the halfway point in our long journey with stops ahead in Montgomery, Jackson, Sumner, and Memphis. I'm sure I'll have more to share as we travel on. It is in some ways a difficult pilgrimage, staring at the dark side of humanity each day, the ugliness, the hatred, the cruelty, the unthinkable. Exploring the depths of human depravity is deeply troubling. And yet, the courage and determination of those who resisted peacefully and endured such brutality offer us inspiration and hope, a noble example. I have met a new band of heroes calling us all to live out our true calling in Christ.

Three weeks of sabbatical nearly completed. Thanks for your thoughts and prayers. Good to have you along with me. I'll check in again soon.


LisaatLeisure said…
This is just what you need, dear Drew! I’m so glad you have this opportunity. What a relaxed, re-energized pastor will return to Memorial’s pulpit.
Unknown said…
I feel truly blessed that our family knows you. This very topic weighs so heavily on my mind and I am looking forward to reading your thoughts. Prayers for a safe and insightful journey!

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