By Mother Rebecca

“For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven”
Ecclesiastes 3:1
“A time to work, and a time for rest.”
Mtr. Rebecca

On Monday, May 20, I will enter into a long-anticipated time of sabbatical. The word “sabbatical” is related to the word “sabbath”, the commandment to all creation that every seventh day is set aside – sanctified – as a day of rest. Just as we need one day of rest each week, we periodically need longer times of rest. Scripture speaks of a Sabbatical Year, the one year in seven in which God’s people were required to let their fields lay fallow, to forgive all debts, and to release any Israelites who had given themselves into slavery as a result of their debts.

God’s commandment regarding the sabbath is perhaps the most known and least observed of all God’s ways. Years ago, I read a life-changing book by Wayne Muller, the opening lines of which have stuck with me for years. I share his words when I lead retreats, when I meet with people for spiritual direction and counseling, and I want to share them with you now. Muller writes:

All life requires a rhythm of rest. There is a rhythm in our waking activity and the body’s need for sleep. There is a rhythm in the way day dissolves into night, and night into morning. There is a rhythm as the active growth of spring and summer is quieted by the necessary dormancy of fall and winter. There is a tidal rhythm, a deep, eternal conversation between the land and the great sea. In our bodies, the heart perceptibly rests after each life-giving beat; the lungs rest between the exhale and the inhale. We have lost this essential rhythm… Poisoned by the hypnotic belief that good things come only through unceasing determination and tireless effort, we never truly rest. And for want of rest, our lives are in danger.

Wayne Muller, Sabbath: Finding Rest, Renewal, and Delight in Our Busy Lives

After ten years of ordained ministry, with several of those years spent leading congregations through difficult times (a merger, a beloved rector’s retirement, and a pandemic), it will be a blessing to pause and reflect with God on my vocation as a priest and pastor.

“How will you spend your sabbatical?” people have been asking.

The first thing I say is that I hope not to “spend” it. I hope to savor it. Inhabit it. Live it. Relish in it. Rather than thinking of this time away in purely economic terms, I hope to appreciate it for what it is: the gift of rest from God and from the people of Transfiguration.

“Yes, yes, but what will you be doing?”

I connect with God through practices that remind me that every breath we take is a moment in which God’s ruach – the Holy Spirit, the breath of life – floods afresh into our bodies. To make a right beginning of this season of renewal, I will pass the first week of my sabbatical alone, in silence on retreat in the Texas Hill Country. Since 2020, I’ve been on a mission to hike in all the state parks in Texas, and during this first week away, I will catch my breath while I hike in three new parks: Old Tunnel, Pedernales Falls, and South Llano.

I also connect deeply with God when I travel throughout creation, most especially on adventures to new places which don’t so much take my breath away as cause me to inhale in wonder. I am a bucket-lister: I’ve visited 46 of the 50 states so far in my life. In June, Scott and I will travel to Nebraska and both Dakotas. While there, we’ll hike in some National Parks and adventure in the Badlands for 4 days by bicycle. We’re looking forward to catching our breath together.

Finally, in late July our family will travel together to Mexico City. We’ll have a week of vacation as we explore a new place. In early August, Scott and the boys will return to Dallas, and I will travel to Cuernavaca for two weeks of Spanish-language immersion. So many people we interact with every day here in Texas are native Spanish speakers, and I’ve long believed that proper love and hospitality toward these neighbors involves learning to communicate well with them. I began learning Spanish with Duolingo last summer, and I hope this program helps me gain comfort in this new language.

In between each of these adventures, I look forward to time at home with Scott and our boys. I’ll be catching (and sometimes losing) my breath as I walk, ride my bike, practice yoga, cook, pray, and read.

While I am away, Frs. Casey and Ted, along with Pastor Nancy and a cadre of clergy friends and staff members alike, will be here to lead us. By the time I return, you’ll no doubt have worked out all the logistics of worship in Roper Hall and the work in our nave will be well underway. I’ll be praying for all of you wherever I may be. I love each and every one of you deeply, and I know I will miss you this summer. I can’t wait to hear what you’ve been up to when I return on Labor Day weekend.

I am profoundly grateful to my Transfiguration family, and most especially to the Vestry, the Sabbatical Committee, and our amazing staff for the opportunity to step away for a season of rest, renewal, and refreshment and for the support they will give while I am out. God’s keeping to you all!

Mother Rebecca+

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