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Ferry Sabbatical Recap from Pastor Brian

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This is a condensed version of the report Pastor Brian shared at the congregational meeting on Sept. 15. 

This summer we had the extraordinary opportunity to take a sabbatical. Not only does New City have a policy that our pastors have a mandatory 3 month sabbatical every 7 years but we were also the recipients of a Clergy Renewal Grant from the Lilly Foundation.

Every year Lilly gives $6.5 million to 150 clergy recipients with the sole purpose of giving them rest and renewal (not a grant to WORK or WRITE or take CLASSES or PLAN) it’s for rest and renewal. You pitch to them what will be restful and renewing for YOU.

Our pitch was a summer of “life off of four wheels.” With kids ages 9, 10, 11, & 13 much of our life here at home is lived on 4 wheels and 45 miles per hour. This summer we lived without a car, getting around by plane, train, bike, boat, and on foot.

Our goal? To intentionally change pace, slowing down so that instead of saying, “No, not now” we could say, “Yes, you have my attention. Now.”

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After a whirwind, National Lampoon’s Vacation-esque week in London to kickstart the trip, we took the train north to Edinburgh, Scotland which was our home base for the rest of the summer. We settled in to Edinburgh buying bikes, exploring, and learning our way around. This was maybe the real beginning of our rest. During these first few weeks I was detoxing off of the speed of life and work back here at home.

There wasn’t any work to occupy myself or that would allow me to avoid being present with my family. I couldn’t anesthetize by busying myself with some project around the house or the yard. I was struggling with, and even resisting, the change of speed.

And as I was detoxing and acclimating to this new speed, God was patient and gracious: we found a couple church plants that we really enjoyed. We met a few families that were tremendously hospitable and kind to us. There was ample time to read and think and pray.

The very landscape of Scotland was transformative because it is so spectacular and other-worldy. It's the land of giants and fairies and we constantly felt like we were walking in a JRR Tolkien story.

After several weeks of living in Edinburgh—detoxing and being a novice in the school of slowing down—we had what we all agree was probably the highlight experience of the trip: a seven day bike and boat trip from Amsterdam to Bruges.

We traveled by train from Edinburgh to Newcastle, then ferried overnight from Newcastle to Amsterdam, boarded the boat in Amsterdam, rode about 30 miles each day (totaling 170 for the week) from Amsterdam to Bruges along the canals and bike paths in the Netherlands and Belgium.

I think this is when we found our "godspeed." I began to feel less harried and hurried, opening up to let this whole experience be what it was going to be without trying to control it all. 

When we stayed a day in Amsterdam after the bike and boat trip we rented bikes and explored the city, becoming one of the myriad of cyclists around town. And after our bike and boat trip when we got back to Edinburgh, we only had a couple weeks left with so much more we wanted to do! But after those few last weeks in Edinburgh we packed up the flat and headed to Paris for a week on our way home.

In many ways, Paris was a perfect decompression chamber as we walked along the Seine, ate baguettes, tried amazing cheese and wine. The highlight of Paris was our night bike and boat tour, solidifying a new family motto: always take the bike tour.

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My sabbatical was myriad of “once-in-a-lifetime” experiences all in one not just because I can only receive the Clergy Renewal Grant once in my lifetime, but also because our girls are at a pivotal age and the time with them was invaluable.

In God’s good providence, this sabbatical was just the right time for us to recalibrate. Not only did we learn to love living at a “life off of four wheels” pace, we also experienced God’s grace in the form of the grant and the gift of the time allowed by New City's sabbatical policy.

The grant was ridiculously prodigious, extraordinarily vast and generous, and probably more than anyone should ever receive.

But really, that's the point because that's how God's grace is: ridiculously prodigious, overwhelming, extravagantly vast, and generous.

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Although I feel a bit like a space capsule on reentry (I'm over here trying not to burn up, ha!), my time away provided me rest and renewal that I hadn't conceived of.

I’m incredibly grateful to the leaders of the church who care about us pastors and our families enough to cook in this mandatory sabbatical policy, to the Lilly Foundation for the ridiculously generous grant they gave to me (and give to numerous clergy each and every year), and I’m grateful to you, New City, for letting me come back.

Seriously…thank you, New City, for your role in making this summer possible for me and my family, and for welcoming us back. It’s a privilege to get to be a part of this little Kingdom project we've got going.