On Labor Day, I was driving over to Kay and Rhea’s house at sunset. A high ceiling of deep orange and sapphire clouds, clumped together like cottage cheese, glowed above me. Below to the west was a blue sky, clear to the horizon; a perfect window for the sun perched low over Mt Tam, pouring forth its golden light across the purple waters of the bay. The rays of sun illuminated a rose colored, shimmering veil of clouds in the east filled with bands of rainbows, showering down in columns.
I thought for a moment, is this real? Would anyone believe it? The description sounded as fantastic and other-worldly as something out of the Book of Revelations, or a drug induced high. But it was real! I actually took a photo while driving up the hill, and called Kay and Rhea to see it as I was driving and of course, they were watching it at the same time.
Climbing higher up Redwood road, I arrived at their mountaintop window to the world. The rainbow colors filled the sky… it was heavenly.. extraordinary.. breathtaking.. it reduced us to awe and silence. We were, in that moment together, connected, and deeply aware of its preciousness.
Over the past few days, people have been asking me, how was your sabbatical? What’s it like returning?
I must admit, I had some preconceived ideas. Several weeks ago, I ran into a colleague from Oakland Community Organizing, Rev Jim Hopkins. Among many topics, we talked about sabbatical experiences, and he reminisced with me about his sabbatical experiences several years earlier.
As wonderful as the experience had been for him, he said his greatest fears were about “re-entry.”
Being a child of the 60’s, it brought back memories for me of the Apollo missions, and the silent, star- lit, wondrous voyage to the moon, followed by the precarious re-entry into the earth’s atmosphere.. Hoping that the heat shields will withstand the intense temperatures of re-entry, praying that the parachutes will release to slow the descent, hoping to land in the gentle arms of the ocean, and not the sharp edges of a skyscraper!
Prior to returning, I had various expectations about how returning was supposed to be, ranging from utterly stressful to extremely relaxing, inspired, full of new ideas, plans and visions… for a time of new beginnings.
I have since let go of the “supposed to” expectations. And what’s left is what IS… right here; right now… here we are, in this precious time, this time of change, a time of endings & of beginnings.
So let us begin. Let us be. Here & NOW. Perhaps the precious beauty of the sky represents re-entry – rich, vast, unpredictable and perfect.
Over these past few months, in my daily morning meditation, I have held Skyline in prayer, to continue to hear God’s unique calling in each of our lives, and to share our distinctive gifts as leaders.
I am moved by Skyline’s collective response to the Spirit’s calling – from the Green Team’s passion for eco-justice, to our ongoing commitment to support hundreds of children in Sierra Leone, to learning about the despair and hope in Colombia, to creating inspiring worship services each Sunday, to joining for weekly bible studies, to reaching out with tender care and support to those in need and in grief, to taking part in plans for welcoming new families to Skyline preschool, to supporting couples beginning their married lives together, and yes, to balancing budgets, and washing windows at workdays!
Kudos to all who helped to plan each of these events and grateful thanks to all who participated!
Over these past three months, I have been doing three things primarily:
- visiting with family and friends from the east coast;
- seeking spiritual refreshment and renewal; and
- gaining skills in progressive church leadership and growth.
Throughout the summer:
- I have been hiking in beauty of Northern California, taking time in silent retreat, and reading lots of books, practicing yoga and meditation.
- I visited vital progressive faith communities, and talked with their staffs.
- I completed courses in congregational growth and renewal at the Graduate Theological Union, through the Center for Progressive Christianity.
Over the next few months, I will be sharing highlights of these experiences with you in sermons and in an upcoming retreat that the council and I are planning for October.
I am grateful to the Spirit, which affirms, reinvigorates and rededicates us all to the work of ministry and mission, here and beyond.
My deepest thanks and appreciation to this faith community, to our dedicated and capable church council members, to our highly capable and faithful sabbatical pastor, Rev. Drew Nettinga, to our talented and dedicated staff, and to you for this sabbatical time of study, reflection, refreshment and renewal.
Blessings, Pastor Laurie