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September 21, 2015, 1:57 PM

The Remodeled Pastor

Anything I could say falls short of expressing the gratitude I feel for the sabbatical break my congregation made possible for me this summer.   It was requested and granted on short notice, in order to take advantage of two important learning opportunities for me and Ellen’s availability to fill in as sabbatical replacement.  And this church rose to the “last minute” challenge; allocating the necessary money and stepping up the laity’s responsibility for one another.   Knowing that I could count on Ellen and the deacons to care for the congregation and with great confidence in the rest of our remarkably competent and wise lay leaders and staff; I was able to focus on my own spiritual and intellectual development for three months.

There is a common misperception that summer is a “slow time” for churches.  Summer worship attendance may slow down with people going away on vacation; but our annual meeting and Green Fair keep this church humming through most of the summer.  It felt strange to not be part of those two important events for the first time in twelve years.

The stewardship of our buildings was also going non-stop this summer.  With great appreciation, I watched from afar the beautiful work on Woodruff House.  My appreciation turned to amazement the day I saw a dumpster parked next to the Meeting House in the morning, which was full of old roofing materials at the end of the day and a brand new roof completed on that side of the Meeting House.  After a day of rain delay; the second side was completed, start-to-finish in a single day.  If I hadn’t been in town at that moment I might not even be aware that we have a new roof.  To cap it all off, Ellen’s request that the carpet in the Pastor’s Study be cleaned, led to a complete remodeling of my office which is still in progress as I write this in the temporary pastor’s study in the room next door. 

The only emails I received from Ellen this summer were questions about what color I would like for the walls and carpet, and whether I would like track lighting instead of those dreadful fluorescent overhead fixtures in my office.  As the project mushroomed; one email from Ellen referred to “Lee ‘while-we’re-in-here’ Parsons.”  I hope he doesn’t mind if I continue to call him that.  It is only with deep gratitude and appreciation for Lee’s caring attention to all the details of the place in which I spend more time than I do my own home.

The two courses I took this summer to help me shift my activities to building church vitality, have remodeled to some extent the focus of my day to day work.  Coming back to a newly remodeled office will remind me daily that God is, indeed, doing a new thing here at First Congregational.  God is calling me and all of us to do a new thing that will extend the love of God wider and deeper into the community beyond our walls.

Ellen, in her sermon the day of the annual meeting, talked about how remarkable it was that this church would and could successfully arrange for the pastor to have a sabbatical, on such short notice.  She bragged on you all: “What we are able to do here speaks to a real strength of lay leadership, it speaks to a true openness of the membership and it speaks to extraordinarily responsible and resourceful stewardship.”  I second her observation that, “It demonstrates the great vitality of this congregation.”

I will write a lot more about the things I did and what I learned during my sabbatical, but what needs to be expressed first is my gratitude for the opportunity of time away from my usual responsibilities, and my appreciation and admiration for the leadership of this church.  Ellen, the Church Council, and the Deacons kept everything running so smoothly that I think I might have missed all of you more than you missed me.

See you Sunday!  Cheryl


09-21-2015 at 6:14 PM
Hi Cheryl,
Missed you terribly more than I/we can express.
Ellen did a fabulous job. She is a wonderful person and a great pastor. Wishing her only good things in her future studies and accomplishments. You rock Ellen.
Welcome back Cheryl. You rock as always!!!!
Big hugs and enjoy your new remodeled office and tranquil space.

You are both inspiring and very special ladies. We are as a congregation so lucky, inspired and blessed.
09-21-2015 at 3:00 PM
Karen Esslinger
Welcome back!!
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