Sunday morning worship at Grace Episcopal Church remains online. Evening Prayer is offered outdoors on Sunday evenings for a congregation of 50 or less. All are welcome, however registration is required. Please visit our Grace@Home page for the registration link and to see all the ways we are staying connected to one another, to Grace, and to God!
422 Brenau Avenue, Gainesville, GA 30501
This fall, Cynthia will take her sabbatical break, and I wanted to write with a few key details as we prepare for this time. If you are not aware, the broader Episcopal Church strongly encourages clergy to take a three-month sabbatical break after six years of ministry. It is a time to breathe and rest, paying particular attention to soul-care and reflection on one’s vocation so that, after the sabbatical is finished, there is a strong sense of renewal for the entire community. Since I invited Cynthia to join Grace in October of 2014, this time will be much needed time for her, Jack, and their entire family. I am so glad that we are a multi-clergy parish, because we can truly rearrange in a way that fosters the deep care the entire staff deserves.
We will celebrate Cynthia and send her off with a special blessing on Sunday, September 13, and we will welcome her back on Sunday, December 13 in time to finish our plans for Christmas Season. Cynthia and Jack are making plans for these three months, and it promises to be a wonderful time and space for their family.
During her time away, the Rev. Mary Demmler, our priest associate, will share with me in the liturgy. She and I will rotate through sermons, and it will be wonderful to have her presence among us–especially since Mary grew up at Grace, as you know, and was married and ordained a priest here. As she says, Grace is her family home, and I am grateful she is here to share in the ministry of this community. Mary’s sermons are powerful and always spot-on, and I am grateful she will be present during this fall.
As well, the Rev. Dr. Betsy Jennings Powell will share in the pastoral care of the parish during Cynthia’s sabbatical. Gainesville is Betsy’s home town as well, as you may know. She and her husband David are both retired Episcopal priests, and Betsy has a prior vocation as a pediatrician before doing seminary studies. Betsy and David moved to Gainesville late last fall, and their presence has been an enormous support during these five months of pandemic restructuring. I am extremely grateful that Betsy will be able to work with me and Brenda, in particular, in caring for the pastoral needs of the community. David is available, as well, should the need arise, and his nearly thirty-eight years of pastoral experience is invaluable. I am thankful for their willingness. In addition, I am grateful that Ginny and Nate Early will be working with Cheryl Kelley, our Director of Christian Formation, to continue the great work with our youth. We are truly blessed at Grace with extraordinary people whose leadership and willingness is inspiring.
It is also important to share with you that I have expressed my hope that the entire staff take the time they need during these days of heightened stress and anxiety. I recently shared with them my hope to move to a more flexible schedule so that they can take extra time off, in addition to their yearly schedule, as the pressures wax and wane in these months. It is vitally important that we care for ourselves so that we can all be present to you as best we can. I cannot thank the team enough for the constant dedication they show to this community.
Also, I want to share that, as you may know, I postponed my sabbatical first because of the launch of the Bicentennial Campaign and, subsequently, because of the pandemic. I hoped to find a way to spread the time out over three years, but I fully anticipate arranging to take a block of time at some point early next Summer. Lisa and I are already imagining plans for the family. It is my full intention to do what I can to be present as your rector through these pandemic days, celebrate a re-grounding and deep breath after the vaccine comes, and then slip away with my family to renew and rest for a while.
You all remain in my prayers, each and every day. I ask that you hold Cynthia and Jack in your prayers, with enormous thanksgiving for the gift that they both are to this community!
Come away with me quietly to a deserted place and rest awhile – Mark 6:31
Words fail me to express my deep gratitude to Stuart, the vestry, and the parish for making it possible for me to go away with Jack for a Sabbatical of rest and renewal. My primary intention for this time is physical and spiritual renewal to recharge so that I can be fully present to whatever parish life looks like in the coming season. Because God wired me to rest best when I am engaged in an activity, I have a couple of projects that I will be researching that will perhaps be valuable resources to our common life when I return.
One project is exploring the neuroscience of gratitude and its effects on individual generosity of time, talent, and treasure. This work dovetails, I believe, with Fr. Stuart’s ongoing dedication to the practice of prayer as it grounds the life of a parish community. The other project is around the classic films in American cinema, which have unconsciously shaped our racial and gender prejudices. Both topics have always personally interested me, and I believe are areas where Bible study and theological reflection can shed light.
But, again, mostly I will be playing, praying, and eating chocolate. And looking forward to our reunion in December.