What I Did On My Summer Vacation
By: Pastor Greg Batson
Good morning! In case you don’t recognize me, my name is Greg Batson and I am your Senior Pastor. Seventy-seven days ago, I departed this sanctuary after worship and began a summer-long renewal leave. I intentionally stayed out of touch – no emails, no social media, no work-related communication. You may have been wondering what I’ve been doing this whole time, so I thought I would give you a short report this morning, juts like the ones you may have given on the first day of school upon returning from the summer break. In that spirit, I’ve entitled this “What I Did on My Summer Vacation”.
First, I rested. I truly took an extended time of Sabbath where I disconnected from my regular schedule. Some days were busy; other days were completely clear on my calendar. There were daily walks with our dog Buddy and gardening in our yard and regular naps. There was a trip to the Eastern Sierras near Bishop for a few days of trout fishing and sharing with old friends. I only caught a couple of fish, but the scenery was spectacular, the magnificence of God’s creation reflected in the mountains, streams, and nighttime skies. There was a magical evening at Petco Park as the Padres completed their greatest comeback in history, and numerous concerts at the new Rady Shell, the new outdoor venue of the San Diego Symphony.
I spent lots of time with my family. My son Wesley and I took a road trip up the length of California and back, visiting half a dozen college campuses between San Diego and San Francisco. I was reminded of the incredible diversity and beauty of our state’s landscape. Tania and I helped move our middle son Daniel into his dorm room at Chapman University in Orange as he began his freshman year. I spent a week with our oldest son Tom, helping him move from Philadelphia to New York City. It was filled with exhaustion as we climbed four flights of stairs on move in day and also exhilaration as I reconnected with friends that I haven’t seen in 20+ years. There were also museum visits, restaurants, and a trip to the US Open. Finally, Tania and I were able to share time together as well, including a getaway to a beautiful inn overlooking the ocean at Dana Point that Foothills generously provided for us. Thank you!
I also discovered during this time that life did not stop, and this has been a time of sorrow and grief for our family. We lost three members of our extended family during this time, all unexpected deaths. As CS Lewis once describes it in his little book “A Grief Observed”, it was as if we had suffered a concussion when we heard the news, not understanding fully what had just happened, disoriented, and confused. It was and continues to be a time of grieving and reflection, of reassessing everything about life and its meaning for us all.
I also read lots of books – ten to be exact. They ranged from theology (James Cone’s The Cross and the Lynching Tree) to psychology (Curt Thompson’s The Soul of Shame) to Pulitzer Prize-winning works (Les Payne’s biography of Malcolm X entitled The Dead are Arising and Louise Erdrich’s novel The Night Watchman). I will share more detailed reviews and recommendations soon. I rediscovered my love for reading, and I plan to continue it as a spiritual practice so that I can share my discoveries with you.
In summary, it was a wonderful time of rest and renewal. Special thanks to my clergy colleagues Rev. Kristie Grimaud and Rev. Lori Doyle for their excellent leadership during this time, for the entire staff as they continued to minister to each of you as the pandemic went through its Delta wave, for the Staff Parish Relations Committee, Church Council and Rev. John Farley who granted this leave, for the gifted lay leadership of this congregation who never faltered, and to this entire congregation for your generosity of financial support and prayerful spirit. I am deeply grateful. Let us pray:
Loving God, thank you for the opportunity to observe Sabbath, a time of rest and renewal that you have commanded for all your creation. Thank you for colleagues who made this possible, and for this congregation that provided the space and time for it. As we continue to endure the COVID pandemic, we recognize that everyone is exhausted and needs a time for rest. May you guide each and every one of us to find their personal time of reflection and renewal. And we call upon you to guide us as a community of faith as we move into the unknown of being a post-pandemic church. Remind us that for every step we take in this journey, ultimately we rely upon your grace and strength to sustain us. In Christ’s name we pray, Amen.