Journey’s end is journey’s beginning. My month sabbatical completed, I returned home Thursday to begin another journey: my pastorate with a congregation that is growing, whose distinctive voice on behalf of the marginal is very much needed in a world riven by hatreds and bigotries.
There are so many lessons from a pilgrimage (or travel) that to enumerate them all would be a disservice to them I suppose. Planning, connections, patience, risk, serendipity, boundaries, hospitality to strangers, openness to the other and God’s universal presence incapable of being grasped by any one geography, ethnicity or religion. You can tease these lessons out without having stepped foot in another country. But the physicality, the incarnational quality of actually placing oneself in a context outside of one’s comfort zone or routine is simply invaluable for receiving these lessons. A pilgrimage is a baptism of sorts where one is immersed within the language, customs, perceptions and beliefs of those who are different. It is waking up to being the stranger. The Gospel of John says in the first chapter that Christ appeared to us as a stranger. Suddenly we can loop such an insight into a theology of journey. I could go on…
I am grateful for the leadership of our church who advocated my taking a sabbatical after twenty years of service, grateful for a congregation willing to be engaged and to engage the ministry of another servant of God (Michael Kinnamon) and grateful for all who served and kept being the church in this place for this time. I will enter our sanctuary with joy tomorrow and hope and pray you will join me there, not only for our reunion but for the beginning of a new journey. Grace & peace,
postscript The picture in my post is of the cloister of the convent called The Basilica Santi Quattro Coronati. It is near the Coliseum in Rome. I had discovered it eight years ago when I traveled to Rome for the first time for my 50th birthday. I was so pleased to be near it this trip, for my hotel was just down the hill from it. My first night in Rome, I ambled up the hill and entered the small, ancient sanctuary for Vespers, led by the chants of about a dozen nuns. My first trip, however, I did not even know there was a cloister available for visiting. One day I entered its quiet, peaceful square of light and took this picture.