For the next four months, I will be on Sabbatical, interspersed with vacation. It is the policy of the Diocese of Bethlehem that parish clergy take their study leave every five years and I have been at Trinity, Easton, PA for over five years.
Here is what I will be doing:
Starting Monday I will be taking part in an intensive Spanish immersion class at the Mexican American Cultural Center in San Antonio. MACC is a Roman Catholic pastoral and education center dedicated to preparing priests, deacons and protestant clergy, lay professionals and lay religious for ministry in the Hispanic/Latino community. They also prepare Hispanic/Lation religious ministers to work in the English speaking context of America. I am looking forward to this, and am, I have to admit a little nervous.
After vacation, I will go on retreat for two weeks--maybe write an icon or two. Then I will spend two months at General Seminary. I will attend the opening conference of the Tutu Center there, and then I will be focusing on two things: first, learning more about ministry to Hispanics and Latinos in the northeast US through the Programmo at GTS. Second, I will be doing some research and writing, mainly around evangelism but also around something I have been thinking about a lot lately which is the incarnational nature of the local parish church.
I realize that I have deliberately put myself in New York during Playoff and World Series time, without a television. It could be that the Yankees and the Red Sox could meet in playoff---11 games out or not, I never count the Evil Empire out! It could also be that the Red Sox meet the Mets in the World Series. Or it could be something else entirely. But, hey, no good thing comes without sacrifice!
I also hope to get in some good train spotting. There is no place like New York for the sheer variety of passenger rail to spot and compare.
This is an entirely new experience for me. First sabbatical in twenty-five years of ordained minsitry. People who know me know that I have a hard time choosing from a menu at a diner because it all looks good to me! So it has been a worthwhile excercise in narrowing my choices and letting God direct me to how to use this time.
People who know me also know that I have had a real hard time letting go of my parish. I did not know how much I have come to love them until I realized that I had to leave them for four month. The people at Trinity, Easton, are really and truly friends and apprentices of Jesus Christ. They will okay...but it sure is hard to leave!
At the same time, I hope to be able be a better priest to our small but mighty hispanic community in our parish and to help our parish reach out to the growing Hispanic/Latino community in Easton and the Lehigh Valley. I also hope to be a more relaxed, more centered priest to the parish God has called me to.
How often I will blog is anyones guess. I know I will still contribute once a month to Daily Episcopalian. For big chunks of the summer, I will be on haitus as a newshound for The Lead. With three weeks of intensive Spanish, I expect to be on the air less often. After that, who knows? I may succumb to temptation and figure out some new way to rile up the good folks over at Stand Firm. But probably not. As my brother-the-brother keeps saying to me: "Shut up and listen." (Hey, Brother Chad-Anselm! Is that and the dope slap in the Rule of St. Benedict somewhere?)
Anyway, if there are long periods of silence, that's why.