Friends in Christ Jesus,
In the middle of June, I will celebrate my 8th anniversary at Gloria Dei. I can hardly believe the time has gone so fast. I became eligible for a three-month sabbatical last year. I wasn’t ready, and we were in the midst of planning “Rise, O Church,” our plan for the new organ and sanctuary renewal. I used the time to apply for a clergy renewal grant from the Lilly Foundation that I titled, “Walking in Beauty.”
I got the grant! So I’m planning my three-month sabbatical, scheduled to begin in the middle of May and last until the middle of August. Thank you to our leadership and congregation council for adopting this sabbatical policy and encouraging us to take it.
For the first part of the sabbatical, I’m going to walk the 500 miles of the Camino de Santiago in Spain, an ancient pilgrimage route that ends at the cathedral in Santiago de Compostela where the bones of St. James are buried. I walked part of this deeply spiritual path in 2008 and have longed to go back ever since. I’m nervous about the amount of walking–about 15-20 miles per day–but I’m looking forward to the physical, emotional, and spiritual challenge of it all. I expect to learn a lot about myself and what God may be up to in the background of my life. I was told the first time I walked a piece of the Camino, “Sometimes you don’t know exactly why you’re walking until you get some miles under your boots.”
For the second part, I’m going to enjoy a full month of summer in Minnesota, doing many of the activities I don’t get to do very often because of our full church schedule, which include many evening meetings. Darin and I plan to walk around the lakes, bike, canoe, sit in the backyard around the fire pit, and invite friends over for meals and conversations. We’ll also plan trips to the North Shore and to Lanesboro, or just a Sunday afternoon bike ride on a new path.
For the last part of the sabbatical, Darin and I will travel to Cusco, Peru to hike part of the Inca Trail, culminating at Machu Picchu, the stunning ruins of Inca culture. We plan to learn about Inca spirituality, as well as the history of conquest that devastated an entire culture but left a heritage in the people of Peru. We’re grateful to do this part of the sabbatical together.
A significant portion of the grant money comes back to Gloria Dei to support pastoral ministry while I’m gone. I’m planning to invite an exciting group of preachers to fill in for me. We’ll contract with a visitation pastor to handle emergencies, visits, and maybe some funerals. Pastor Lois has also agreed to work full time for one month of the sabbatical, and Pastor Javen will take on some of my administrative responsibilities. The grant provides funds for them to take on these extra responsibilities. There’s also some money for congregational parties at the beginning and end.
I’ll invite all of you to walk with me through the summer in your own plans, noting places of spirituality and beauty that you come across in these beautiful months of the year. I hope that we’ll share together a renewed sense of God’s presence in creation, in our bodies, and in the people we meet.
Walking in beauty,
Pastor Bradley E. Schmeling