Rector's Ramblings March 11, 2020
So, perhaps it’s best to start with the theme for this time away; the theme we used in the application. It’s important to the folks who offer these grants that there be a vision and a theme for the pastor’s Renewal Program. I worked with a committee of Christ Church folks for a number of months as we put this program suggestion together. It will read in the third person because it was a group effort, so don’t think I’ve lost it! Here’s what we came up with, and what is still driving this sabbatical program (…sure, pun intended!):
“The rationale for the theme of the renewal program is based on Fr. Tom’s weekly blog for the congregation: “Rector’s Ramblings.” Fr. Tom’s pieces are reflections on his personal life, the life of the congregation, or events in the broader world. Ramblings often connect to the Gospel of Jesus, offering encouragement and hope. Ramblings frequently use storytelling and are devotional in nature. In his time as Rector of Christ Church, in addition to preaching and other writing, he has written more than three hundred such pieces for the congregation. The effect on the congregation has been evident and has deepened the bond between Rector and parish. It is also indicative of the steady, pastoral work that has defined Fr. Tom’s Rectorship.
Fr. Tom regularly rambles and preaches on current events, including the challenges we face as a result of the growing divisions within our country and its political workings. In recent years, virtually all of us have been affected by these challenges. Traveling around the country will allow him to discover, firsthand, what unifies us as a nation of different regions, peoples, and ideas. Although he didn’t know it when coming up with his plan, it is not unlike the basis for John Steinbeck’s, “Travels with Charley”, which details Steinbeck’s travels around the United States with his dog in search of America. Given our current state of affairs, Fr. Tom’s search for America is timely and important for him and for the congregation.”
We also went on to describe exactly what I’d be doing, which follows:
“Part I: Rambling in the Woods. The first part of Fr. Tom’s renewal program will be two weeks spent at the Episcopal Diocese of Georgia’s Clergy Cottage in Saluda, NC with his German Shepherd, Scarlette. Fr. Tom will decompress and unwind from the day to day realities of parish life and begin to center himself for the rest of the renewal program. He will spend his two weeks by reading, praying, and hiking with Scarlette, and working on Cottage repairs. Fr. Tom loves to work with his hands. A hands-on project will help him avoid getting lost in a spiral of post leave-taking worries.
Part II: Ramble across the United States. The Purdy family will rent an RV and travel around the United States. The family enjoys road trips and engaging in adventurous exploration. Fr. Tom has chosen a Class C motorhome to rent. The RV’s size and style offer space for a family of four and their three dogs, is relatively easy to drive and can tow the family Jeep behind it. Fr. Tom found an RV owner through Outdoorsy.com who has agreed to rent their motorhome for the duration. The rental includes roadside coverage and insurance. Fr. Tom and Donna both intend to take an RV safe driving course. The Purdy family has a long history of camping with Donna’s family and is familiar with travel trailer camping and much of the setup and usage of camping equipment. Fr. Tom drove large vehicles in a prior career and is comfortable towing.
One out of every seven days will be a sabbath day of rest. On Sabbath days the family will only drive to go to a local church and will avoid shopping and dining out. They will rest, write, and relax, enjoying “no screen” days free of technology. During their travels, stops will include National Parks, historic sites like Colonial Williamsburg, and places of interest, like the Susan B. Anthony museum in New York. They will visit family and friends along the route and will have opportunities to do things that are just fun, like visiting Disney or seeing baseball games. There are only two times when the family is driving the RV two days in a row. The minimum is two nights in each place, with many stops that span four or more days.
To facilitate meeting people along the way, the Purdy’s are employing two strategies. As they seek to discover America and its people, the Purdy family will not just stay at National Parks and campgrounds, but also at some free overnight locations such as farms, wineries, and other “boondocking” sites. Boondocking sites cannot be reserved too far in advance, so there will be some flexibility built into the itinerary. Many of these sites allow campers to help with the work at the site or include a meal with the host family. The other strategy involves asking parishioners to suggest friends, family, and acquaintances along the itinerary. Suggestions will be solicited in the leadup to the program and Fr. Tom will choose which connections to pursue. Fr. Tom plans to engage in regular writing, his routine practice for processing his experiences. The writing will not be sent back to the congregation during the renewal program and may or may not be shared at a later date.
Part III: Rambling through Canterbury. After returning from the RV rambling portion of the renewal program, Fr. Tom will travel alone to Canterbury, England for a week of prayer and reflection before his sabbatical ends. Fr. Tom spent a month at Canterbury Cathedral during seminary as a part of the Canterbury Scholars Program; participating in the Cathedral’s daily rhythm of prayer was a formative experience. Fr. Tom will use the time to reflect on the experience of the renewal program and prepare for reentry into congregational life. Being in England will help distract him from rushing reentry before the proscribed time.”
So that’s the plan. Reservations and arrangements are largely made. There will be some points at which we will figuring out what we will do as we get there, but we know where we’ll be staying and have some outings planned ahead, too. For those who might want to suggest friends or family along the route, or things we have to see in between stops, here’s the basic list of places we’ll be visiting on our travels. Let me know if you have suggestions:
Acadia National Park
Grand Teton NP
Mt. Rainier NP
Redwood Forest NP
Death Valley NP
Grand Canyon NP
Carlsbad Caverns NP
Yeah. It’s a lot. 12,500 miles of RV driving, give or take, not counting driving in the car when we’re stopped. We are road trip people; we’ve taken more than a couple road trip vacations in the past that involved logging thousands of miles of windshield time, so that part is a known quantity. We figure that we’ll experience an incredible closeness within our family as a result (the goal!), or we’ll be VERY ready to spread out in separate rooms when we get home (both can be true!).
As I said a few weeks ago, it is humbling to have the time and the financial grant to be able to engage in this process. It is certainly “outside the box,” and a once in a lifetime opportunity. Starting in May, my sabbatical time will be approximately fifteen weeks, start to finish. Twelve of those are sabbatical leave, and three are annual vacation weeks (I’m not using all my vacation). With God’s help, it will be a transformative experience for all of us. I’m counting on it.
O God, our heavenly Father, whose glory fills the whole creation, and whose presence we find wherever we go: Preserve those who travel; surround them with your loving care; protect them from every danger; and bring them in safety to their journey’s end; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.