Saturday, February 19, 2011

a vacation

I have seen some of the research about clergy well-being, and some of it related to vacation: many clergy do not take all of their vacation days, and those who seem to be healthy are able to get some distance from the work. We most often get away in the summer, but for some reason we have been able to take some time away this year in the dead of winter, and I can only say that I recommend it. It began with the preaching schedule, that allowed me to be away on a Sunday. My colleague would be preaching, the Scouts (Boy and Girl) would be assisting in the liturgy, and so that worked out. I asked a friend, who is preparing for ordination, to visit on a couple of my hospital days, and that also helped with the visitation load. I communicated all of this with two chairs of committees, whose meetings I would be missing. I promised that I would catch up with them when I returned.

December had been hectic. Advent had been full. End of year giving was a stretch. Christmas eve was a marathon. Then a good friend called on the day after Christmas: her husband was in the process of dying, her son was in from out of town. I went over, and we visited and planned the service, which fell on the New Year's holiday. Then Epiphany. Then guests from Haiti joined us for a few days, and the missionary Jim Gulley was with us, his sermon live streamed across the world via Rethink Church. Then the administrative work leading to the approval of the budget, which, thanks be to God, was better than I could have imagined.

So a week emerged, an opening. Miraculously, it was there in my wife's schedule. Since she is heavily involved in mission work in Haiti, this is not always a given. And so we spent a period of eight days away from Charlotte, three in the mountains of western North Carolina, and five in New Orleans.

We have a small cabin in the mountains, not far from Lake Junaluska, a retreat center of the United Methodist Church in the southeast. It is a restful setting, and one of its great assets is the lake itself: one can walk around the lake, a 2.5 mile exercise, and I do this once or twice any day I am there, regardless or weather. I have made the trek in snow, wind, heat and rain. It clears my mind and restores my body. We see friends there who we don't often get to talk with, and this happened; we discovered two new restaurants, one operated by a young man who was once a member of a youth group we served as interns in divinity school. I recommend it: the Smoky Mountain Cafe, in downtown Waynesville. We did a few odd jobs around the cabin, but not too many. We saw a couple of movies on a makeshift screen with an overhead projector and a laptop, and this was fun. And we worshiped at the early service at First UMC, Waynesville. I enjoyed the sermon, and my only suggestion would be for less talking through the service and more silence. But I recognize this is largely a note to myself!

I then flew to New Orleans, where my wife joined me a day later. In the spirit of full disclosure, I was also there for two very brief meetings: one related to a "Leadership Table" I sit on in my denomination (it is one of our four focus areas, and table is a code word for committee), the other a governance conversation related to Africa University, in my role with GBHEM, one of our denominational boards. Both were brief, constructive meetings where action steps were identified and outcomes named. In between and around these meetings, Pam and I enjoyed more vacation. Years ago Jimmy Carter, in reflecting on his life and hobbies outside of the Presidency, commented that he sought to find ways to enjoy the world wherever his work took him; thus, if he were observing an election in south America, he would make a point of fishing for the wild trout native to that area before or after. I have tried to imitate this, and I recommend it.

So, what do you do in New Orleans? You eat. You listen to great music. You reflect on the tragic and glorious history, over hundreds of years and over the past five years. You think about Louis Armstrong and Tennessee Williams and Fats Domino and Walker Percy. You see the wealthy and the poor in close proximity to each other. You revel in the diversity of a port city where customs, ideas and goods have always been traded and shared. You do the things every tourist does---Cafe du Monde and Preservation Hall---and you locate, by accident or providence, the hidden treasures---Central Grocery's muffaletta sandwich, the Ogden Museum of Southern Art, Olivier's Restaurant on Decatur, where they can tell you the difference between creole and cajun. You walk a lot. You are in a cosmopolitan place, but it is still the south, and so there is a spirit of hospitality. It was a great destination, and, yes, it appears to be on the way to rebuilding itself, with the assistance from friends all over. But, the people will tell you, the progress is very slow,

Then we were taken to the airport in a cab driven by a young man from New Orleans who had a story, or several of them, related to Katrina and Mardi Gras and other assorted challenges and celebrations. The flight was delayed, but then we quickly got into the air and landed at home, in Charlotte, ready to engage again in life and work here.


Blogger larry said...

Reading this while wrapping several days of midwinter vacation from my pastoral responsibilities myself. Thanks for sharing - sounds like it has been terrific.

3:24 PM  
Blogger Country Parson said...

Years ago we began our midwinter vacations, and found them to be rejuvenating in every way. Summers became a time to rejoice in the place where we lived. Moreover, summers became a time to keep church going with a full range of religious education offerings and worship services with trials of new and different ways of doing things. Mid winter, after Epiphany and before Lent, also became a time for the congregation to benefit from other voices in the pulpit, a little variety to spice up dreary February.

8:30 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home