One of the things common to preachers and politicians is that we are supposed to have an informed opinion about everything. "I don't know," is rarely an acceptable answer. "I don't care," even less so! I calculate, conservatively, that I have preached 1,700 sermons in the last 3 1/2 decades without taking more than a three week break, not to mention Christian Education groups, Lenten services, Confirmation classes, and newsletter or online articles. It stands to reason that someone who talks so much might benefit from shutting up for a while. Those around him or her might benefit as well.
My sabbatical plan for the next three months looks very active, and it does include a lot of outdoor adventure - my style of having fun and stretching myself involves cycling, hiking, kayaking, and photography. However, the most challenging times will be the three retreats, at the Abbey of Gethsemane (KY), the Center for Courage and Renewal (NC) and the Ghost Ranch (NM). The Gethsemane and Ghost Ranch retreats will both be a full week of meditation by myself. The meditation will be a combination of classic Christian prayer, using the Book of Common Prayer and the Psalms, and an eastern form of meditation called Maitri ("my-tree").
Maitri meditation is derived from ancient yoga postures which are held for long periods of time. The postures are designed to evoke loving-kindness for oneself and for different types of people and actions. They are not comfortable, but my experience is that they do build a sense of understanding and compassion in one's life.
The Center for Courage and Renewal retreat will be a group experience for clergy and non-profit CEOs from around the country. This organization was founded by Quaker writer and teacher Parker Palmer, someone I have admired for many years. He has focused on "leading from within." I really look forward to the retreat, but I also recognize the challenge of not being in charge. This may sound strange to some of you, but yes, that is a challenge. Who knows? I might learn something.
So, while you are not hearing from me, it is time for you to stretch as well. We are blessed with solid leaders at Grace Immanuel, who I trust to carry on ably in my absence. I also delight in the opportunity for the church to experience the leadership of Rev. Katie Tabler Kone, a longtime friend and colleague. You have my permission to have a blast together, and to enjoy some new ideas and ministry possibilities. And who knows? You might learn something too.
Christ's Peace, Greg Bain