For the past three months I, your deacon, have been on sabbatical. As you might know the word and idea of sabbatical comes from the Biblical Hebrew word ‘sabbath’, literally a "ceasing" , a rest from work, or a break, often lasting from two months to a year. While I have continued to labor in my work as the psychologist in our schools, I have ceased, for a time, to function visibly as your deacon at Good Shepherd. I say visibly, because I have continued, throughout the summer to meet weekly, off campus, with our young men’s Brotherhood of the Fire. I have also made stealthy and clandestine visits to our parish to check my mail and to pray in the solitude of our sanctuary.
Though this sabbatical was mandatory as part of the diocese guidelines for deacons when a new rector comes to a parish, I endeavored to use the time to reflect, by comparison, on our unique Episcopal form of worship.
Each Sunday, during the past three months, I visited a different Christian denomination within our communities. The diversity was radically broad, the sense of welcome was warm and universal, and the presence of God was constant.
After living forty years in our community, and helping raise and teach thousands of children, it came as no surprise that I knew someone in each church. While I generally attempted to be inconspicuous in my visits, sitting in the back, limiting my conversation, etc., inevitably I would be gathered under someone’s wing and introduced to the worshipers gathered. I was asked to sing, to pray, to lay hands upon, and to come again. The warmth and welcome was real and heartfelt. I declined the solo singing, prayed a reluctant dismissal blessing, and held my hands out in healing prayer.
Baptist, Methodist, Church of God, Anglican, Episcopal, non-denominational, Roman Catholic, Missionary Baptist, Church of Christ, and Camp Henry worship.
I witnessed ecstatic prayer and resting in the Spirit, Biblical scholarship and study, two hour sermons, five minute sermons, fine completely acapella singing, a deep sense of community, and no matter which form of worship, a powerful blessing to God.
We are blessed to live in a unique corner of the world where our God is honored, proclaimed, and worshiped by many people. Sure there are many people in our community who do not worship, do not know Jesus, and to whom we need to reach out and invite to worship with us. But it is good to know that there is a pervasive holiness here in our mountains where all are welcome.
I am so very glad to be home now. Warmed by the return welcome that I have received from so many of you. So very grateful to be working with Fr. Bill and back to serving in our wonderful church. I am grateful for what I have experienced during this sabbatical …….but……there is no place like home.
Under His Wing,