The great conservationist, champion of wilderness, and originator of the Appalachian Trail, Benton MacKaye, once wrote, “There are three things: 1) to walk 2) to see 3) to see what you see.” He was writing about the purpose of great trail that connects Georgia to Maine, but his words seem to point to a deeper purpose.
I almost can’t help but hear the words of the prophet Micah, “And what does the Lord require but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God.” MacKaye seems to understand that the first two of these commandments: justice and kindness, really must flow from the third: walking humbly. Walking mindfully—noticing the world and the people and plants and animals within it. Remembering the God who created all of it; who created you.
I’m so grateful that you, the congregation of this church, have allowed me my upcoming sabbatical that I might take time to renew and refresh my capacity to do this kind of walking and living, in the hopes that I might better minister to you upon my return.
My time away will begin after worship on June 2. After a few days of preparation, Audrey and I will set out to hike the Georgia section of the Appalachian Trail, starting at Springer Mountain and continuing up to Deep Gap, North Carolina. Upon our safe return, I will travel to Birmingham to represent the church at the CBF General Assembly and then be back in Macon for a few weeks before we take a family vacation to the coast. I’ll then split time between Macon and shorter retreats to local state parks and the Monastery of the Holy Spirit in Conyers, Georgia, in the hopes of finding a more accessible place of retreat to incorporate into a regular practice of Sabbath-keeping upon my return.
My sabbatical will conclude with an extended trip to New Mexico, where I’ll spend several days at Christ in the Desert Monastery before heading to Santa Fe for more time for solitude and reflection. I’ll be back the last week of July in time for Billy’s first day of kindergarten and will rejoin you in our Back to School worship service on August 3.
I go knowing that ultimately this time away is not simply for me but for our church. My hope is that these experiences of retreat will inspire new rhythms of sabbath for our staff and lay leadership—that we might find ways to walk, see, and see what we see together.
Thank you for this opportunity. Know that I do not take it lightly and or for granted and that I go mindful that I do so for you and all that God has in store for us in the season ahead.
Trust that all pastoral and administrative duties have been covered, and please be prayerful for Kelsey, Stanley, Anne, Joe, Connie, Kaylyn, Dexter, and Cedric, colleagues for whom I am grateful and deeply appreciative for their part in making this time away possible.