Happy New Year!
I love a fresh start. A new beginning. A chance to reset.
I am on the cusp of a sabbatical. Every five years, the Episcopal Church in Colorado grants priests an extended period of leave for rest and renewal. Beginning January 9, I will step away from the daily rhythms of Holy Comforter and return on April 18.
A sabbatical has its roots in the biblical teaching of the Sabbath Day. Genesis’ poetic rendering of creation describes God working for six days then resting on the seventh. This divine precedence of rest is established from the beginning of time. A rhythm of labor and respite is hardwired into creation: we wake and then we sleep; we work and we play; nature produces, and then lies fallow.
Rest, though, is becoming harder to practice. Electricity can make make the night like the day, and communication and globalization means it’s always worktime somewhere. Efficiency and productivity are highly valued and rewarded in our culture, making us ignore the call of our bodies, our minds, our spirits, to enter into rest. Sabbath is one of the greatest gifts God offers, and one of the most ignored commandments. Creativity, health, and relationships suffer in the absence of rest, and I am thankful for the church’s commitment to wholeness.
Some have asked the focus of this sabbatical, and it is all about soaking in beauty: the beauty of creation, the beauty of worship, the beauty of relationships. To paraphrase Picasso, “Beauty washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.”
Beauty, like rest, often gets pushed to the side. In modern life, beauty is often seen as a luxury. It is lovely when we can take the time to catch a glimpse, but rarely pursued and appreciated as an end in itself. Cultural values measuring efficiency and productivity rarely result in beauty. Beauty is hard to quantify; after all, it is “in the eye of the beholder.” But, beauty is an integral part of creation. Beauty awakens transcendence. Beauty invites awe and nourishes the human spirit. Beauty evokes wonder and sparks creativity.
I will spend these three months traveling to beautiful places, enjoying luxurious time with family and friends, and relishing worshipping in a pew rather than a presider’s chair. Holy Comforter has received a generous sabbatical grant from the Lilly Foundation to fund my experiences.
These funds also provide for an amazing sabbatical series for the congregation during my absence. Beginning January 28, for seven Saturdays, Holy Comforter will offer “The Practice of Beauty: A Community Arts Series” that is open to anyone and everyone. Each Saturday will feature a different expression of art, with a different artist providing a demonstration and introduction to practice. This series is intergenerational and open to beginners and experienced practitioners alike. Check out our website at holycomforterchurch.net/beauty for details and invite your friends and neighbors.
Practice Sabbath, Practice Beauty, with me this new year. Let us be renewed together.
The Reverend Kim Seidman