Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Grace and peace to you in God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. What a great beginning to this indescribable gift called sabbatical! Here’s a quick overview and some thoughts. I also have included a few pictures as well.
Officially, my sabbatical began on July 15 so the first two weeks were annual vacation days for me. As usual, these two weeks are family time. After a glorious 4th of July wedding for Craig and Molly Bennett, the Gaillards headed to Lake Murray with the family for our annual ski and swim week. It was a great joy for our girls to be with cousins from Nashville, Los Angeles, and Daniel Island.
After returning from the Lake, I had the great pleasure of sailing in the Camp Staff regatta at Camp St. Christopher. We had a great time seeing old friends and enjoying the beach. I also had time to have a surfing lesson with my nephew and Ministry Intern Ed Simmons.
After several days at home, the family headed out on our Western Odyssey – an ambitious itinerary to see some major sites in the west. We flew into Las Vegas (first flights for Cate and Eliza) and rented a car. We saw the Hoover Dam, Sedona, the Grand Canyon, Zion National Forest, and Disneyland. We were blessed with safe travel and abundant laughter as well as wonder at the beauty of God’s creation. This family time will forever be one of my favorite memories from sabbatical. Here are is a pictures from our travels.
I have missed being with you these past four Sundays. Tara and I allowed each of the girls to choose a church that they would like to attend while we are away. So far we have been to City Church, Seacoast, St. Philip’s, and Journey of Faith in California. Each Sunday is a wonderful opportunity for me to listen to others preach and to see how worship in other contexts and traditions is offered. I count each of these sixteen Sundays away as a blessing and an opportunity to learn and grow.
So far on Sabbatical I have read a battle account from the Afghanistan conflict entitled No Way Out, a biography of the 19th century statesman Henry Clay, and I have begun Rosaria Butterfield’s Openness Unhinged which explores the issue of identity and intimacy in the Christian life. I have loved having the time and freedom to read widely.
Beyond our family, my thoughts and prayers have centered on our church and many of you who asked me to pray for you. It is amazing how in different times and places God brings you, the beloved of Good Shepherd, to my mind. I was awakened early one morning in California with many of you on my heart. My hope is for Good Shepherd to grow and develop as a strong Gospel witness during this sabbatical time. To that end, I encourage you to continue to pray, attend and give – three simple ways that each member can make a difference.
I have also struggled as many of you probably have in the face of what seems like an endless string of senseless killings that began with the Emmanuel tragedy in our own fair city. From Chattanooga to Lafayette, we are forced to ask why America is under attack in so many ways. The darkness of sin is ever more evident in these moments which allows the light of Christ to shine greater through the church. I am praying for each of these tragedies and the lives shattered by them. Apart from the transforming work of the Gospel, there is no hope for America or any other nation.
In between trips, we have been preparing the girls for the school year and enjoying the summer in the Lowcountry. You might remember that Tara and I will be in England from August 1-15. Our 20th wedding anniversary will be September 9th and we count this special trip as an extended celebration. We look forward to sharing with you the details of our travel and the transition to study time for me when we return. Our itinerary includes London, Canterbury, Oxford, Whitby, Edinburgh, and Lindisfarne.
I’ll close with this picture of Tara and me taken in Zion National Forest. I am so blessed by her partnership with me in all things but especially in ministry. Each member of our family is blessed by this sabbatical but know that Tara is renewed in a deep way by having my full attention.
You are in my prayers even as the Holy Spirit guides my intercessions. Thank you for this indescribable gift.
The best is yet to come,
Fr. Shay +