As I write this on the 20th of July, this month has been a time of rest for me. I took my furlough week—which helped balance the church’s budget—at the beginning of the month. A dear friend, DeForest, and I went up north and saw the Sleeping Bear Dunes and other beautiful sites. As someone from the coast, I keep expecting Lake Michigan to have a salty sea smell, but I am learning to love our beautiful landscapes and lakescapes. DeForest and I have been taking baby swimming lessons and he greets me many mornings with “Swimming?,” hoping that will be part of the day.
I’m also in the midst of a few weeks of study leave, the time the congregation releases me from the normal rhythms of congregational life to allow for study and planning that can be hard to squeeze in when the to-do list gets long. I’m drafting our worship calendar and beginning to reach out to guest preachers.
This coming church year, most of our children and youth will be exploring the world’s religions. With the vision of everyone learning together from these wisdom traditions and developing an appreciative understanding of these faiths, world religions will be part of our worshiping life and adult religious education offerings this year. To that end, I’ve been returning to some of my favorite comparative religions texts, including The World’s Religions by Huston Smith, God is Not One: The Eight Rival Religions that Run the World by Stephen Prothero, and The World’s Wisdom by Philip Novak.
I’ve also been reading a lot of poetry, adding the best ones to my elaborate filing system for possible use in future worship services. I subscribe to
a few services that email me a poem every day. My favorites are ‘The Writer’s Almanac’ and ‘Poem of the Day’ from the Poetry Foundation. On a related note, I also subscribe to ‘Brain Pickings Weekly’—an email by Maria Popova that highlights insights from three books, essays, or lectures. It spans the gamut from children’s books to philosophy to science to art and beyond. This email often inspires worship topics and is a great source for the ‘Words for Reflection’ every week. I tend to let these emails accumulate in my inbox for months and then read dozens at a time. If you’re looking for poems or other insights to appear in your email inbox, I recommend these to you.
Other things I’m reading right now (or hope to read before my study leave ends) include A Better Way of Dying: How to Make the Best Choices at the End of Life by Jeanne Fitzpatrick and Eileen M. Fitzpatrick (which the Facing Life, Facing Death group will likely discuss this fall), Wicca: A Guide for the Solitary Practitioner by Scott Cunningham (as earth-based, pagan, and Wiccan spiritualities are something I wish I knew more about), and Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings
of Plants by Robin Wall Kimmerer, which was recommended to me by a colleague.
Whatever it is you are up to this summer, I hope it is restorative for you.
See you in church,