This morning offered me the gift of shifting from the role of ministry leader to being part of the worshipping community. One of the great things that comes with sabbatical! I chose to go to a neighbouring United Church. My colleague is on leave, and worship was very well lead by members of the congregations worship committee, and guest musicians from yet another United Church.
This was one of what we call a combined service -that being a combination of the 5 closest United Churches, who have worshipped together this way 4 times each summer for several years now. We used to call them “joint services” but with the passing of the new marijuana laws in Canada, some thought that might have taken on a meaning we might not want to promote. 🙂
Whatever they are called – those services always bring a sense of community broader than we feel as single congregations. There is much to be said for worshipping in a full church in the summer. And over the years, these services have evolved in such a way that the richness of musical gifts among the communities is shared too, adding to the depth of the worship experience, and a strong sense of the presence of God.
I had planned to do the “I’m on sabbatical, I’m not working” sneak in and sneak out, however that didn’t happen. Yes, I did sneak in a moment or two after worship had started…and sat with members of my own congregation. It’s a whole different world at the back of the sanctuary!
Sneaking out just wasn’t possible. Rural ministry simply doesn’t work that way. And for that I am grateful. There were moments of caring for, and even more moments of being cared for – as people from my community “checked in” with how I am on this journey of grieving, and people from the surrounding communities who I haven’t seen since my mom died offered their love and compassion.
In rural ministry, one cannot be as anonymous as you can be in urban ministry. And again – for that I am grateful. When last I was on leave from my work in an urban congregation, I could worship in another of the city’s United churches, and save perhaps for the minister, be relative unknown by most of the congregation. There were many a coffee time I stood alone before giving up and going home.
For some, that’s a good thing. And at times, it can be. However for now – where I am at in my life, I am so very grateful for the communities of faith in this part of the world; for the opportunity to hold them in love – evening when I’m on sabbatical, and for the gift of being held as I undertake this journey of sabbath time.
Later this coming week, we begin our trip to Manitoba, where I’ll do the first official visits with thriving and flourishing congregations.
Good Sunday, friends!