Beloved in Christ,
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
I write you with a thankful heart and a degree of excitement. After a long rest, I am growing ready to return to “normal” and practice the ministry to which God has called me. What a joy and a grace sabbatical has been, and I promise you that I will not waste the remaining 19 days. Here are a few highlights of the month of September:
1. Friendship – Part of what I have realized is that being the rector of a growing parish makes being a good friend challenging. During the month of September, I have eaten lunch with friends here in the area, visited friends who live out of town, and spent a week with a friend in the mountains of Tennessee. Friendship is one of God’s great gifts and I hope to be a better friend even as I live out my calling in parish ministry.
2. Family – As the summer travel came to a close and as school routines resumed, I made a commitment to try and make the weekends special for the girls. One of the things that I realize is how fun a weekend can be when the pressure of preparation and presentation are removed. What a joy to spend Labor Day Weekend with the whole family at a friend’s cabin in Table Rock and to see the opening game of the Clemson Football season! We were able to tailgate with Blake Steen and worship with Blake and Patterson Fralix that weekend. Two weeks later, we attended Tara’s family reunion in Washington, NC with Eliza and Cate (the teenage girls were booked). This is a reunion that Tara attends most years in September without me. What fun to be with family and on the water in that beautiful space. In addition, I have been able to go to countless volleyball games and events as well as celebrate significant milestones like Ann Claire being accepted to Anderson University. Our family has been significantly blessed during this sabbatical time.
3. Deep Rest – One of my goals after the summer whirlwind of travel and learning was to experience some deep rest. I was sitting on the beach in mid-September when the realization occurred to me that I was really at a new level of rest. I identified the three “P’s” of my priestly life that drain my energy and have to be managed – preparation, presentation, and pastoral concerns. Together these three are the heart of ministry and also what generate much of the wear and tear of ministry. A regular pattern of Bible reading, journaling, exercise, reading, study, and pursuit of hobbies has led me into a new place of renewal. I am deeply thankful for that.
4. Important Breakthroughs – God has been speaking to me very clearly about my own struggles with grace and how I seek to initiate what I believe is best rather than receiving what He gives – clearly the best. God has revealed this to me on a dock and in the river. As I have prayed about this and discussed it with trusted mentors, I am convinced that it may be the chief message of this sabbatical. Another important revelation has to do with where we go and how get there as a parish family. I believe God has been speaking to me about Vision and areas of emphasis for the ministry of Good Shepherd. I have had moments of excitement and energy as I was driving and sitting in the woods. The Lord is gracious to speak as we are willing to listen. I am so thankful for this time.
5. Writing Projects – One of the things I love to do is write, but it often seems that parish life is too busy to do any substantive writing. Over this month, I have completed an essay about sabbatical for the Jubilate Deo, started two pamphlets on the “Why’s?” of the Christian faith, and begun work on a class in early English Christianity. It has been a fruitful time of reading and study that has inspired me to be more disciplined after my return.
Speaking of reading, I finished another book on the war in Afghanistan, Into the Fire by Dakota Meyer, a recipient of the Medal of Honor. I also read Billy Graham’s nook, Nearing Home and am working on the Christian classic City of God by St. Augustine. I also nearly completed Secret Missions of the Civil War by Stern, which was only available at the cabin in Tennessee.
I continue to grow and learn each Sunday as I have made it a point to worship in a different church each weekend. In September, we were blessed to be at Christ the Redeemer, Clemson (an Anglican Church plant); St. Andrew’s, Mt Pleasant; St. John’s, Florence; and the Cathedral here in Charleston. I find things in each place that I want to try or remember to do. I am also struck by my deep longing for community and the regular rhythms of our common life. We do worship well at Good Shepherd and I am excited to return to that pattern with you.
I have so much more to tell you when I return. This will be my last Sabbatical Report in writing. I will plan on being back in the office on Monday October 19 and seeing many of you on Saturday the 24th at the Mark Prince Memorial BBQ. I am excited to preach and celebrate on Sunday the 25th as we enter a new and exciting season as a parish.
I would be remiss not to mention the amazing effort of the staff and vestry leaders during this sabbatical season. We are blessed to have so many Confident Leaders in our midst. Please continue to pray for me as I pray for you. These last two and a half weeks will be a treasure as we celebrate Ann Claire’s 18th birthday, and I have the opportunity to go on one final retreat before sabbatical comes to a close.
The best is yet to come,
Fr. Shay +