Friends, this will be my last monthly Heirloom column for a while. If it seems like you may have read those or similar words not that long ago, there’s good reason. On February 1, I began a six-month sabbatical that came to an abrupt end just a few weeks later when it became apparent that COVID-19 was going to alter our shared reality, disrupt our society, and threaten us all.
Thankfully, although the pandemic has indeed done all of those things and more, only a very few members of our Heritage family have contracted the coronavirus, and we have so far lost no one to this deadly disease. What we have done is rally around one another. We have found ways to continue much of our great programming virtually – including learning how to provide quality Zoom worship services, family chapel opportunities, and Vespers services. We expanded our staff to include a Zoom technician. We have created materials that go home to our families and children. We have started gathering, virtually, on our decks and now, with the coming of colder weather, in our homes.
In short, we are maintaining the connections that make our community what it is and what we have come to expect (even without the hugs). As most of you know, after the election is behind us, I will re-start that interrupted sabbatical – secure in the knowledge that there is strong, dedicated leadership to guide the congregation through the upcoming winter. Starting December 1, I will be on sabbatical for four months (through the end of March). In some respects, a sabbatical during a time of pandemic-enforced separation might be less disruptive than in “normal” times, since we are all, already, accustomed to not seeing one another in person.
In addition, I believe our Board of Trustees – led by President Tamilyn Moore, Vice-President Michael Wilhite, and Past President Jim Nolan – is well-positioned to lead us during this time of continued separation. They have developed a strong working relationship. Each and every Board member brings to the table a deep commitment to the health and long-term well-being of Heritage Church. The same can be said for our Worship Committee, which once again is lining up an impressive array of guest preachers for you while I am away. The co-chairs of that committee – Regina Pugh and Kathy Wade – are a delight to work with, and over the past several months, the committee has really deepened its understanding of worship in a time of drastically different expectations.
At a recent Town Hall meeting (on Zoom, of course), someone asked me what I plan to do during my resumed sabbatical. First and foremost, I am looking forward to spending more time – quality time – with my family. Patrick is back home from the New Zealand, but hopes to resume his world travels sometime in 2021, so I plan to squeeze in as much time with him as I can during the sabbatical. Similarly, with the pandemic Jennifer’s working from home a lot more now. So quality family time is high on my list. As is rest. Sleep has been at a premium lately; I hope that will soon change! And of course – just like I was beginning to do during my last sabbatical – I will devote time to guiding Heritage Acres Memorial Sanctuary, which is now open, into its next phase of development.
Speaking of Heritage Acres, you might want to pick up a copy of the December edition of Cincinnati Magazine – we will be prominently featured in it.
Finally, let me take a moment to say how blessed I have been, personally and professionally, to have Rev. Leslie Woodward as my colleague and fellow minister on staff for the past eight-plus years. Leslie’s retirement, which comes at the end of 2020, will leave a huge hole in our church community – and in my heart. I hope each of you will reach out directly to Rev. Leslie and let her know just how much she has meant to you, to your children, to your families, and to our church family. Leslie, you will be missed – tremendously. We wish you a very happy retirement. And I trust you will also get some much-needed sleep and rest starting in January!
May this upcoming month – which will be our last month together for a while – be an auspicious November filled with much to celebrate. May we experience the simple joys of relationship and connection as the holidays approach. And – as I say at the end of our times of shared silence – may we honor the Spirit of Life in each, and in all. Amen!