Dear Parish Family,
For every ten years of service, a priest is able to take a sabbatical for a few months. Back in June 11, 2015, I celebrated my ten-year anniversary of priestly ordination. I did not want to take my sabbatical at that time, having been a pastor at St. John for just a year. A number of new initiatives that were just getting established kept me from doing it in years 2 and 3. So now, in the fourth year of my pastorate, I am finally taking those few months to “sharpen the saw.”
From April 12 to mid-August 2018, I will be on sabbatical primarily at Oxford University in England. From April to June, I will be taking two intensive courses: 1) The Death of Christ: Biblical and Theological Investigations and 2) The Shaping of Early Christian Orthodoxy. I will then live the life of a monk for a while at a monastery in Scotland (as well as try to get on St. Andrews for a round of golf while I’m up there!), before returning to Oxford from July to mid-August for the “Theology Summer School.” All the while, I will trace the footsteps of a veritable giant in the history of the Church in England and beyond, Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman, to whom I have a personal devotion.
Oxford University’s Theology Summer School is specifically for members of clergy, theologians, and teachers of religious education who study four theological topics in small interactive groups guided by specialist tutors. The topics range from sacred art and architecture to the “new asceticism,” which explores how monastic ideals are making a comeback in the midst of our culture of excess and immorality. I am particularly looking forward to Prof. Alister McGrath’s lecture on “Christian Apologetics in Oxford: Reflections on C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and Austin Farrer.”
I want to thank in advance Fr. Brian Lenz, who will be acting pastor while I am away. A big reason I was able to be comfortable enough to finally take my sabbatical was my wholehearted trust in not only Fr. Brian at the helm, but also our entire Senior Leadership Team (Andy Bihl, Kristi Blair, and Todd Gale), who will continue to lead our dedicated staff and entire parish.
Our Pastoral Council and Finance Council have also ramped up in a big way to fill the roles of our lay leadership. We will be placing their names and pictures on our website and bulletin board as a reminder to you of who they are. The ranks of our Parish Representatives for all twelve areas, moreover, are filling in nicely. Along with all those involved in our other commissions and ministries, it’s a beautiful thing for a pastor to behold how engaged our parishioners are in our parish life!
Finally, there will be two priests who will be helping Fr. Brian with Masses and confessions. I specifically asked them because they both have ties to the area: 1) our Pastor Emeritus, Fr. Jim Shaver; and 2) our diocesan Vocations Director, Fr. John Linden, who went to Onsted High School and has immediate family members in Jackson. Please welcome them back home with open arms!
Yours in Christ,