I began working when I was 14 years old, at Meyer’s BBQ out on the highway Service Road in Bryant, Arkansas. I worked the window and loved having a job. I am turning 50 years old this week and I have been blessed to work ever since. I have to say I have enjoyed most of my jobs through the years. There were many of them I knew I would not want to do forever, but I was always grateful in having them. In all of that time, I have never had an extended time away to focus on things I do not otherwise have time to focus on. I realize most people never get this opportunity and that is why I am so very humbled and grateful for this upcoming sabbatical. I know the gift that it is.
The word sabbatical comes from the Latin sabbaticus, from Greek sabatikos, from Hebrew shabbat, i.e. Sabbath, literally a “ceasing.” There are references to the idea biblically, but of course we know them most in academia. In the bible, the seventh year was often a sabbatical. I am not taking a year, but I am taking four months. My belief about sabbaticals is that they are not vacations, but instead a ceasing of normal activity, and a taking up of one you would not be able to do, were you to continue on with the normal activity.
Some of you have heard what I intend to do with this time, but just in case you have not heard, I decided to share it with you now. My main focus is to increase my facility in and with the Spanish language. I intend to do that through an immersion experience in Costa Rica at the School of the World in Playa Jaco on the Pacific Coast. (http://www.schooloftheworld.org/) The School believes in working both sides of the brain and so my family and I will study the language in class in the mornings and then we are asked to take a more active new learning in the afternoons. My choice is surfing. Yes, you heard that right: catching a wave and hanging ten! I have never done this and know it will work that side of my brain, and I am quite sure much, much more. Please pray for me. I also plan to engage in focused study of the First Nations tribes of the Pacific Northwest, both by reading literature, visiting local museum collections and historic sites and hopefully being guided by the people themselves. I am thankful for the guidance of our Diocesan First Nations Committee, and Diane Wells, our diocesan archivist, in helping me select important texts.
The direction for my sabbatical became clear while I was leading a retreat for young male clergy about a year ago in the Diocese of El Camino Real. Two of these men were surfers and they talked about the great lessons inherent in trying to catch the right wave, the balance required, letting the wave do the work, and honoring the power of the ocean. All of that sounded a lot like what all of us are going through right now in the church. And so I am going to give it a try. The First Nation peoples have always shared their Wisdom, but I find myself needing to be more intentional about learning, understanding, and honoring their teachings and their place in our church. And so, I hope to give that some much deserved attention too.
When I return there will still be much time in the sabbatical and I intend to have a language coach here and to continue to devote my time to increasing my language skills. I have found languages to be a real challenge but I intend to gently push myself and use the time wisely.
Here is a link to a video describing the sabbatical in a visual way!
The sabbatical begins on July 1st and ends on October 31st. During that time my email account will be shut down. Yes, that will be a challenge for me too! Emails sent to it will receive an auto response which will state that the email will not be read now, or when I return. If you must get an email to me, you will need to send it on or after November 1st. During that time, if you have an emergency, of course you should contact Canon Joan Anthony and/or Blaire Notrica, Executive Assistant for the Office of Bishop, or any other diocesan staff. They are the finest people I have ever worked with.
Some have asked, “Who will be in charge while you are gone?” Pieces of what I do will be covered by others, and the beautiful reality of our shared governance in the Episcopal Church, which is true when I am here as well as when I am gone, should be spotlighted even more. The separation, I suspect, will teach us things about our mutual ministry we cannot even imagine in this time.
Of course, there will be time for rest, being with family, reading, breathing; all of which I am looking forward to very much. At the same time, I will miss this work I do for you. I love being Bishop, in this place, in this time, with all of you. It has been a joy to get to know so many of you across this great Diocese over the last six years. I love calling the Pacific Northwest my home and while I am looking forward to the sabbatical experience, I will miss the ministry we do together. Actually, this sabbatical is part of that ministry. If I learn from it something that will benefit us all in some way, then this will be a successful time.
Traveling mercies to each and every one.