Night Prayer from A New Zealand Prayer Book
it is night.
The night is for stillness.
Let us be still in the presence of God.
It is night after a long day.
What has been done has been done;
what has not been done has not been done;
let it be.
The night is dark.
Let our fears of the darkness of the world and of our own lives
rest in you.
The night is quiet.
Let the quietness of your peace enfold us,
all dear to us,
and all who have no peace.
The night heralds the dawn.
Let us look expectantly to a new day,
In your name we pray.
Amen.” (p. 184)
“What has been done has been done; what has not been done has not been done; let it be.”
As I stand on the edge of an unknown journey, I am thinking about this prayer. I am about to embark on four months of sabbatical. After sixteen years of ordained ministry, I am going to stop working for four full months. This is hard to comprehend. Since college days, I have never not worked. I do not really know much about Sabbath.
I was raised in a Southern Baptist preacher’s home. This means that other people’s Sabbaths was a work day for my father. And since Mama taught Sunday School, played the church organ and sang in the choir, then taught elementary school from Monday through Friday and then took care of family needs on Saturday, she never had a Sabbath either. In fact, the longest vacations I remember were. . .work-related. We traveled to different parts of the United States when I was a child, but almost all of those times, we were going to wherever the Southern Baptist Conventions were meeting.
So this business of taking four months to decompress, to rest, to play, feels strange to me. It is an experience I have never had. And sadly, the model that I learned, early in life, was to work all the time. This model, plus being a single mom for a number of years, means I have much un-learning to do!
We have prepared for this sabbatical time in the parish. My present and past Vestry helped me to plan. We applied for, and got a Lilly Foundation grant. When Vestry members first saw my proposal, they told me, “You have to cut some of this stuff out. We want you to rest. We don’t want you coming back to us as exhausted as when you left.” Oh. That. So I went home and excised some of the things I had put in the proposal.
A sabbatical prep team formed, and my just-past Senior Warden (head lay person of our governing board, in case you are not Episcopalian) said she would be the leader of this group. So I met with that group a number of times, so we could plan how to handle the different tasks of the parish: pastoral care, administrative tasks, worship, special events that focused on our general sabbatical theme of Creativity and Welcome, etc. We found a very capable priest to be supply during this time.
So now, it is time. I have registered for a preaching conference; a National Geographic Photography weekend; some relaxing time with dear friends in NC and Canada; a digital technology conference at Virginia Seminary; a writing workshop at Kenyon Institute. And vacation—the usual “happy place” called Maine. I will spend chunks of time at home as well—writing, playing with my camera, and walking. Working in the yard. Taking deep breaths. Sleeping. Reading. Journaling. Thinking.
My life has been so busy with “to do’s” that I have not spent very much time just “being.” All that is about to change, I hope.
This next four months may be life-changing for me. I may find parts of myself that I have forgotten. I may find parts of myself that I have never known.
Nervous. Excited. Eager for this journey to begin. My soul is ready.