What will I be doing?
[an earlier version of this entry also appears in the late August – September 2017 issue of The Carillon, our congregation’s newsletter]
Hello! I know that many people are interested to know just what it is that I’ll be spending my time on during these 4+ months. So, here’s the rundown of that, in both summary and detail form.
My sabbatical is built around the theme of reclaiming and renewing “voices,” and I have identified 4 key “voices” that I will be specifically attending to during this time. They are: the voice of rest, the voice of the Spirit, the voice of heritage, and the voice of music. Each of these “voices” informs and fuels who I am as a person and as a minister of the gospel.
- Late August and most of September will be simply time-off, mostly at home, with one week away on an intentional spiritual retreat.
- From September 28th through November 14th, I will be in Europe, travelling to Edinburgh, Cambridge and the East Anglia region of England, London, Berlin, Leipzig and the Saxony region of Germany around Wittenberg, and Geneva.
- Mid-November through the end of the calendar year will again be mostly time-off at home, with another week away in early December for intentional spiritual retreat and a trip to my family in Michigan at Christmastime for the holidays.
August and September:
My leave period opens first with the voice of rest. The first two weeks, from August 25th through September 10th, are simply for plain ol’ time off.
Then I will take a week to intentionally engage with the voice of the Spirit by way of an intentional spiritual retreat week in a monastic-type community setting, engaging in their rhythms of daily prayer and taking part in a bit of spiritual direction. For this, I’m traveling out to Holy Wisdom Monastery, an ecumenical Benedictine community in Madison, Wisconsin, where I’ll be September 11 to 15. I’ll stick around that region through the following weekend, taking the opportunity to attend worship at the church in Rockford, Illinois, that I served prior to coming to Storrs, now known as “Second – First” (it was Second Congregational UCC while I was there). As it happens, I haven’t set foot in Rockford since moving to Storrs almost 7 years ago.
After the intentional spiritual retreat week, I’ll be back home for some further time of that voice of rest.
The big trip to Europe — end-of-September through mid-November:
On September 28th, my partner Adam and I will depart for Europe, where I’ll engage with the remaining two “voices” I’ve identified, heritage and music. The “heritage” voice has primarily to do with exploring sites of historic significance to our Protestant, Reformed, and Congregationalist heritages.
So, the first stop on the trip will be about 4 days in Edinburgh, Scotland, a nod to my own Presbyterian upbringing, since Edinburgh has strong connection to the reformer John Knox and to Scottish Presbyterianism in general.
On October 2nd, we move onward to Cambridge, England, from which I will be based for most of the next 3 weeks. (Adam will fly back to the US after only a week-and-a-half, however—he’s not on sabbatical till next year…) Cambridge and the nearby East Anglia region of England were the key places where the English Puritan tradition got its start—English Puritanism being the shared root of both our own Congregationalist tradition and of the English version of Presbyterianism. I’ll be staying in a cottage on the grounds of Westminster College, Cambridge, which is the theological college for the United Reformed Church, the UCC’s denominational counterpart in England.
Also while staying in Cambridge, I will get a chance to delve into the voice of music by singing for those three weeks as a member of the Choir of Selwyn College, Cambridge (pending successful completion of a final audition). At Selwyn College, the choir still sings the traditional Evensong services of the Anglican tradition 3 days each week, and so this will give a fun and rich opportunity to do lots of choral singing of some great classical choral repertoire.
On October 20th, I will move on to London for the weekend. Among other destinations, I hope to visit the American International Church in London, where my friend-and-UCC-minister-colleague, Jennifer Mills-Knutsen, has been serving as pastor for a couple of years. The American International Church worships in a building known as the Whitefield Memorial Church, a historic Congregationalist church that had ties to George Whitefield, one of the leading evangelists involved with the First Great Awakening here in the American colonies back in the 1740s.
On October 23rd, I will leave the U.K. and head over to Germany, in time for the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther’s sparking the Protestant Reformation—you may remember he supposedly nailed his 95 Theses to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg on October 31, 1517. I’ll stop off for about three days in Berlin, and then make my way to Leipzig as my home-base for about a week, as I explore the various Luther-related historical sites in the region surrounding. Leipzig is also known for its place in music history, especially for being the home of Johann Sebastian Bach during his most prolific period as a church musician. October 31st itself, of course, will have me in Wittenberg for the Reformation commemorations that day.
On November 2nd, I’ll make my way to my final major destination: Geneva, Switzerland. Geneva was the home base of the other leading figure among Protestant reformers, John Calvin. The theological tradition connected with Calvin and his thought lies at the root of what’s collectively known as the “Reformed tradition”—a family that includes Congregationalism, Presbyterianism, and the various Reformed denominations. On the first weekend I’m in Geneva, the Swiss Protestant Church will be having their wrap-up celebrations for the Reformation 500 anniversary, including a large youth-and-young-adult festival, all held there in Geneva. After about a week-and-a-half total in Geneva, on November 13th I’ll head up to Frankfurt, Germany, to catch my flight home to the US on November 14th.
While I’ve highlighted the church history and music connections of my travel destinations, I do plan to take in the other sights and sounds these places have to offer, too—London is the only one of these destinations to which I’ve been before, so it will all be new to me! And I’ll also plan to take some time simply to relax!
Mid-November through the end of the year:
Much of the rest of the year, after I return from Europe but before I’m “back” to SCC at the beginning of January, will again be plain ol’ time off, mostly at home, to connect some more with that voice of rest.
I will take another week, however—November 27 to December 3—to again do an intentional spiritual retreat. This retreat week will be with the Society of St. John the Evangelist, an Episcopal monastic community in the Boston area. I’ll be spending the first part of this time at their retreat house in West Newbury, and then finishing up the week at their monastery in Cambridge for an Advent programmed retreat.
Finally, the last week of the year will have Adam and I traveling out to Michigan to visit my family for the Christmas holidays.
Other things along the way:
In addition to what I’ve highlighted above, there are a few other things I hope to do along the way through my time this fall. I have a stack of reading I hope to make my way through (at least partially), most of it related to the Reformation anniversary—a couple of biographies of Martin Luther, one of John Calvin, an exploration of worship in 16th-century Geneva, and a couple of other books exploring the ongoing impact of the Reformation and its thought. Another thing I’m looking forward to, something that a working pastor rarely gets a chance to do, is the opportunity to visit the worship services of a variety of other congregations. Some of this, of course, will happen while I’m in Europe, but I’m also looking forward to experiencing worship in some diverse communities here in this region. Finally, while I am travelling, I’m hoping to be able to connect informally with other people around their experience of church in the world today, especially among our sisters and brothers in Europe, where religiosity has declined even further than it has here in the US as of late.