The Journey within the Journey
It’s good to be home! I must say that my sabbatical was everything I hoped for and more. Family and friends have inquired, “How was your sabbatical?” “What was your favorite part?” The answer to the first question is easy. It was GREAT! The answer to the second question is actually quite difficult. My time away, like the season’s of the church,(especially the Advent season) were journeys within the larger sabbatical journey.
I divided the sabbatical into three segments and each segment had within it several journeys. An example was my time learning and interviewing clergy and laity in Texas. I spent time in three very different cities, Austin, Dallas, and San Antonio. Each city had its own personality and dynamics. What I worked hard doing was to embrace the journey within the journey I as presently in and not to worry or think too far ahead to where I was going next. I was conscious to “live into the moment.”
The ability to focus on the present place and people is a great blessing. I was able to immerse myself into the culture, the challenges, and the ethos of each journey as if it were the only one I would encounter.
One of my journeys was to Montreal, Canada. Why Montreal? Well, because I had never been there before and always wanted to go. It did not hurt that I got a great deal on flight and hotel! I went thinking I would do all tourist type things, but the truth is, this journey within the journey was a spiritual experience. I think I spent more time in churches and cathedrals than anything else. I even took time to take a few church tours. What I found in Montreal was something I did not expect. The majority of worshipers I encountered at three different weekday services in both the Anglican and Roman Catholic churches were immigrants. Many were from Africa and Asia. After the last service I inquired about the racial and ethnic diversity I was experiencing. The response I got from one Priest was, “We are a changing church and nation.” He went on to say that the Church is a secure refuge for those trying to restart their lives. That in many ways the Church way the only anchor they had as they try to assimilate into a new land.
This hit a core with me. No matter where I went along my sabbatical journey, I found worship spaces and communities that made me feel connected and secure. I came to understand that the journeys we take during the big journey of life need to be filled with connection and security. For without this, it would have been very hard to be at peace and live in the moment. I believe this is what Advent and the Christian journey is all about.