Don’t rush this holiday – be present | Worship

By The Rev. Cynthia Espeseth, St. Hilda St. Patrick Episcopal Church | Dec 11, 2013

A gift of presence and amazing grace. That’s what I was given by my congregation this past summer when I took a much-needed four-month sabbatical.

Clergy in my denomination are encouraged to take a sabbatical every 5-7 years, and this was my first, since I was ordained 12 years ago.

There are all sorts of good reasons for taking a sabbatical – to study, to learn, to rest.

Sabbaticals are intentional times set apart for doing exactly that. A time to renew and refresh and gain new perspective.

I was ready to lay aside caring for this congregation for a while, and they were ready to just rest and be. We received a generous grant from the Lilly Foundation to help us do exactly this.

I traveled to Scotland, read loads of entertaining “beach” books, and concentrated on becoming a better competitive rower.

The good people of St. Hilda St. Patrick prayed, learned, listened and explored who they are as a baptized community of Christ.

They welcomed visitors and guests to our church, dodged the construction work on 52nd Avenue W., and watched as the church became more prominently exposed as that road was widened.

They started to paint the church, but that was just too much work for the sabbatical time. (If you drive by, you’ll notice we are waiting for drier days to finish the job in the final color.)

It is completely counter-cultural to take time to rest, reflect and just simply let ourselves be.

Our society measures itself by “how much.” How much do you make? How much homework do you have? How much can you do in 24 hours, and still sleep?

It wasn’t so long ago that we honored the Sabbath in this country.

Nothing was open on Sunday, or at least it wasn’t open before noon. Now we move so fast, we want 24 hour access to it all.

The best lesson I learned on my sabbatical was to stop, to wait and take time to notice all that is around me, to listen, and to see. I think my congregation learned this too.

The greatest gift any of us can give to another person is our time and our full attentiveness. Being present for another person, so they know that we are not rushing on to the next thing.

Being intentional about just being together sends the message that we value one another – and who doesn’t want to know that they are valuable?

The holidays are upon us. Rushing about, worrying about “how much,” and getting stuff done before Christmas.

Dec. 24 and 25 are going to come whether we have accomplished everything on our list or not.

Rushing about, getting stressed by trying to get it all done will only make you miserable.

On my refrigerator is a magnet my children gave me as I started my sabbatical. It says “Life doesn’t have to be perfect to be wonderful.” Exactly.

Call me if you want to meet for a cup of coffee – I would love to sit with you.

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