Resting was not easy at first. It seemed that everything needed to be done. I had to delegate different tasks to others so I could rest. I also had to deliberately turn off my cell phone to provide separation from the congregation, denomination and other persons. I had to practice learning to say “No.”
We recognized that while our pastor occasionally took vacations during more than 30 years of his pastorate, he had never taken a long time away from us. So, in seeking the Lilly Endowment Clergy Renewal Program grant, it was our goal to say to him: “We love you, appreciate your hard work with us, and want to see you and Sister Shirley take some time and enjoy doing what you want.”
The renewal leave provided me the first extended time for refocusing and personal renewal. In the past I would take perhaps a week or 2 or 3 days, but even so, I was focusing on my next Sunday sermon and did not have the freedom to really just zero in on me. During this time, I connected again with something that had been one of my early aspirations – writing.
The primary goal of the program was to help me renew my sense of call so that I can embark on the second five years of ministry with a fresh sense of purpose and joy. Another goal of the program was to hear cross-cultural stories, in order to better understand the experiences of immigrants and refugees in the United States.
I wanted to develop a rhythm in my life and my family’s life in which Sabbath became, not shoe-horning a desperate day off, but living life in all-sufficient seven-day units. Instead of racing, overloading schedules, and collapsing into the occasional week off, I wanted to engage in spiritual, emotional, physical, and intellectual growth each week.
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