Dear ECA Parish,
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and our risen Lord Jesus Christ! Recently I preached about Jesus as our great shepherd in the context of Psalm 23 and the knowledge that we are being led to greener pastures and still waters as we trust in our Lord. I shared with the congregation that the shepherd has a purpose: the shepherd takes the sheep from pastures that are eaten up and barren, where food is scarce and the land is parched, to new lush, green meadows. But to get there, the shepherd and the sheep have to pass through the valley. The passage from barren land and difficult times means a change of scenery and a change of what is familiar. All too often when faced with challenges, we tend to focus more on the difficulty of the challenge than the notion that God is ever present with us in Christ. This letter intends to emphasize God’s presence with us.
In my message on Sunday, I reminded the parish that I will soon be going on sabbatical following the services on May 15th (Pentecost Sunday) and arriving back at the parish full time August 14th. It is my hope that as many parishioners as possible will attend as schedules allow on Pentecost Sunday wearing red and celebrating the birth of the church and also my departure for sabbatical following the service. Times of change, anxiety and uncertainty can create needless and unintended conflict. I affirmed for the parish then, as I do now, that I am only going on a sabbatical: a much needed journey of rest, a period of reflection of my ministry, and an opportunity to renew my service to God and Christ’s body the church. I will be coming back to Annunciation with a reenergized and renewed sense of ministry and purpose as we get back together doing the work of God in Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit. I am deeply thankful for the incredible seven years of ministry we have accomplished together and there is so much to celebrate about these past seven years. The church has tripled in membership and more than doubled its budget for ministry; created a vast array of new ministries and reshaped numerous other former ministries; we have 2 services on Sunday, 1 Wednesday evening service, and increased worship opportunities; our Reach ministry includes both the parish needs of individuals and the outside world to whom we provide help when needed; the debt has been reduced in half; our first international mission trip in July, a parish retreat in November at Camp Mikell and many other incredible things are taking place. It is great to be the church at ECA and I give God thanks daily for the opportunities given us.
My sabbatical will include a trip to Scotland and England from May 17th through June 15th where I hope to explore my family roots and learn more about our family history. I do not know what this journey will produce for me, but I am excited about the opportunity to go on this trip. I anticipate going to the place where our first U.S. Episcopal bishop was consecrated in the Church of Scotland and visiting the sacred worship spaces of old as well as learning about my family history in the context of my European heritage. I look forward to traveling the beautiful countryside as well as visiting many historical places and points of interest. I am also very excited about Adrian and Kendall coming to join with me May 26th and share in some family time together as a part of this journey.
I am deeply grateful for Vestry members past and present and the members of this parish who have been very supportive of my family and me and our ministry and purpose with one another these past seven years. Numerous members of the parish have expressed a desire to contribute to my sabbatical expenses and I am humbled by their generosity. For those who wish to make such a gift, please make your donation to ECA and designate the gift to my sabbatical. I am deeply grateful for the love this parish continues to show me and I look forward to my time away to refresh my heart and soul for serving in Christ’s body the church and in the world and more so, coming back to ECA and getting back to doing what we are called to do.
In Christ, Fr. Paul+