“Somewhere we know that without silence words lose their meaning,
that without listening speaking no longer heals,
that without distance closeness cannot cure.”

—Henri Nouwen

Three weeks ago, Carrie and I returned from a semester in Italy. Carrie taught for Pepperdine University’s Florence program and I enjoyed a sabbatical season. Let me begin with a few choice adjectives that describe my various experiences during a remarkable season of ministerial leave: Refreshing. Reflective. Restful. Energizing. Educational. Enlightening. Beautiful. Broadening. Blessed. Invigorating. International. Inspiring. Awe-inspiring. Adventurous. Awesome. Delicious. Deepening. Worshipful. Humbling. Poignant. Joyful! 

Highlights from this sabbatical season include the following:

  • Two visits to my childhood home of Greece with family members and friends, including introducing Carrie to my childhood home, school, and church.
  • Sharing my 31st wedding anniversary with Carrie in Heidelberg, Germany.
  • Reading ten books encompassing history, theology, Scripture, science, preaching, biography, psychology, architecture, literature, and spirituality.
  • Visiting a rich array of churches, museums, and historical sites in seven countries and twenty-three cities.
  • Building friendships with Pepperdine students in the Florence program.
  • Spending abundant quality and quantity time with Carrie. It was a marriage renewing time for us!

If you’d like to learn more about our experiences, I have three options for you. First, if you haven’t already, please take a few minutes to peruse the blog I created to chronicle my sabbatical experiences and reflections; you can find it at andyswalldotblog.wordpress.com. Second, come to the auditorium class this Sunday (May 19) at 9:30 a.m. to learn more about “My Sabbatical Experience.” We’re recording this class and will post it online for those who can’t be there. Third, I’m always happy to share one on one — just let me know!

I want to express my heartfelt gratitude and deep appreciation to all of you for not only allowing me to have this ministerial leave but for heartily blessing me in doing so. I appreciate all who preached, wrote articles, taught classes, coordinated ministries, cared for pastoral needs, welcomed newcomers, and managed the day-to-day details of congregational ministry. Thank you so much for blessing me with this unforgettable season of invigorating growth. I believe that our congregation will reap the benefits for years to come.