One of the goals of any clergy or academic sabbatical is renewal. The Session approved a sabbatical proposal that included the phrases, “Spiritual Renewal” and “Renewed Passion.” It’s perhaps not surprising that I’ve “discovered” that renewal of relationships is essential to any other kind of renewal, be it spiritual, emotional or even academic.
|Steve the "Elder" spins a yarn|
For instance... I posted a picture about the FOOD at the Inaugural "BRO FEST" (thank you for your votes!), but I did not mention that this little soiree was our first attempt to be together to just renew being brothers. We are the kind of siblings that call each other once a year -- or less, whether we need to or not. That happens, I think, in a family of boys (there were originally six boys and one girl). So we told stories, mostly about growing up as the sons of Dean and Anna. Steve and Andy are nine and seven years older than I, so our perspectives are shaped by our birth order, of course. Anyway, we didn't DO much at BRO FEST, (we ate a lot and listened to music and talked) -- and it was renewal.
I also wrote earlier about generations and name tags, referring to the Hennesy family reunion. These first cousins of mine have not maintained close ties over the years, but the reunions hosted by my one-and-only-fantastic sister, have helped us 'renew' a bond that, though somewhat loose, is still intact. We do the usual. We catch up on kids and grand kids and jobs... and life and death and everything in between. And the variously colored shirts were a great idea!
And, at that reunion, I got a chance to renew with my sister's oldest son, Joel, who just graduated from Gordon-Conwell Seminary in Boston. Though I didn't keep track of his studies, I did notice that he has taken up the true Theologians stance on pipes. They help us contemplate and be, like, smart or something!
Meet Howard and Linda Soehl. We've know the Soehls for over 30 years. Howard and I were Seminary classmates and he learned a lot from my brilliance as a theologian during those years! Seriously though, we watched each other's kids grow up, from a distance and kept track of our respective ministry challenges as well. We've sometimes gone years without contact for no other reason than busy-ness. But do you have the kind of friend that when you do see each other after months or even years, you can start up a conversation where you left-off and it comes naturally and effortlessly -- including the humor? It works. And the renewal works, too.
I was at the General Assembly of the PCUSA in Pittsburgh as an observer for just a few days. I wondered if my new-found colleague friend, Bill, might be there too. He serves a church in Eastern Pennsylvania and he loves to go to Presbyterian 'stuff.' In fact, that is where I first met him a few years ago -- at a church event, and we seem to have landed at the same events periodically. So, I used the modern version of 'find-a-friend.' I texted him. He texted back that yes, indeed, he was in Pittsburgh, at one of the opening dinner/speaker events (there are dozens). I texted that I was at one, too, maybe we could link-up later. He said, 'which one?' I said, 'Blah-blah' event. He said he was at the same oneI said, 'where?' He texted, 'in the back.' 'Me too' We were twelve feet from each other.
|Bill tried to steal my official Sabbatical hat, but I got it back.|
Oh... and is renewal with grand kids on Sabbatical okay, too? Because it seems like there is never enough time for that in 'real life.' Here, Effie and Carson and grandpa are getting ready for the 'Geluba" whales, otherwise known as Beluga, at the Shedd. They look happy. They'd better, it cost me and arm and a leg! (not literally).
And then, there is this absolutely crazy bunch. The Fitzgerald Family Reunion is like non-other that I know of. It lasts about four days, no matter where or when it is held. It is filled with laughter and teasing and talent shows and games and singing ... along with some good Irish conversation and bickering. My wife is also from a family of seven, the biggest difference between her family and mine being they were mostly females -- five of seven. A renewal/reunion in a family such as that has a different feel to it than the family I grew up in -- they are NUTS and, like... CLOSE. It's soooo annoying!
Renewal... it works. It's mostly about relationships. As is life itself.