This will be my topic in the January 2017 parish newsletter, which I had thought folks would have in hand by New Years Day but may not be out until mid-January. So considering that the fact will be evident, I shall tell it now.
Several years ago, it may’ve been 2011, I served as Summer Priest while Father Steve took his sabbatical and drove a long, cross-country and back trip in his convertible. A new idea since my years as a parish priest, the sabbatical has become a custom for clergy upon completing six years service in a parish. We didn’t do that “when I was a boy,” so I’ve never had a sabbatical; ten days in England after ten years at Trinity, Apalachicola, but never a long respite.
Having returned to Holy Nativity after five years at St. Thomas by the Sea, Laguna Beach the end of April 2009, it occurs to me that 2016 saw me completing seven years as Priest Associate at HNEC. And, never having had a sabbatical, as well as feeling some of the wearing that apparently accompanies aging, I’d like to try one. So, consulting with Father Steve, and considering that the Rev. Mike Dickey now is here for a period of months, this presents an apt moment for me to be away a few weeks.
Although there was Navy leave those twenty years, we always just came home to Panama City for that; and I’m not attuned to the notion of personal free time, and we did not have family vacations when I was growing up. But in the face of each life episode so to speak, I’ve made a resolve, always kept only briefly before falling back into workaholicism, to take more time for relishing the blessings of life itself. So, this is a step. I have no plan other than visit my brother Walt in Louisiana for a few days early this month, January 2017. An oyster trip or two to Apalachicola. No cruises, no thank you, BTDT, nothing matches 7H. Maybe an AmTrak ride if Linda will consider it. Drive over to Tallahassee to visit TJCC where maybe the girls will have some school music events, and Caroline a birthday, and to see Pat and Bob Horn who’ve recently relocated there from Apalachicola. But I think mostly I’ll rest — be lazy, which next to sin is my favorite. Well, lazy is sloth and sloth is sin, so I’m good. Rest and read.
I’m not going to do research or write a book, as college professors often engage their year sabbatical, but I intend some reading. Fiction, I’ve already started a Russian novel and read a couple startling Russian short stories, and I’ll read more, perhaps Laurus, which is new to me: there’s a holy fool, and the author attempts to convey the idea that love exists outside time, which intrigues me. Why Russian writings? Because they're strange, and common, ordinary human life, personal, dark, plausible and unsensational; and, plodding on and on with daily routine, they remind me of Charles Dickens in some ways. Also, I was quite taken with the Reverend Mike Dickey’s December 18th sermon, raising up St. Joseph, whom the angel visits and persuades, even cons, as the ultimate Holy Fool -- and I may during this sabbatical contemplate that notion of St. Paul from 1st Corinthians 4:10. I may have a glass of red on 7H porch with Linda most evenings, and I may continue my daily blog nonsense a bit longer, I don’t know; if it gets tedious, still it exercises the mind. I was thinking a beard, but was vetoed. At any event, I will be away January and February, meaning to return Ash Wednesday, March 1, 2017 to help smear ashes on foreheads.
Honestly, I don’t know whether Linda will cooperate in my sabbatical idea, she may be seen at church some Sundays. But you will not see me, all of January and February I will be unavailable unless Fr. Steve has an emergency need for a priest. Although a retired cleric is dispensable and disposable, if anyone should really need me during that time, I’m as close as text 850-532-0114, email firstname.lastname@example.org, even if out of town.
I’m delighted that this will open more time and opportunity for Mike Dickey to practice and experiment in priestly functions before his next ordination, and I tremendously appreciate Father Steve’s kindness and cooperation to let this happen for me.