Harrowing Of Hell
May 14, 2022

Rector’s Sabbatical: Preparing for Going Out and Inviting In

Dear Epiphany,

I’m going on Sabbatical this June, July, and August.  I have been Rector of Epiphany for over 14 years, and it is time to once again step away and rest, reflect, and write. This reprieve will wonderfully coincide with my wife, Kristin’s, sabbatical from Kaiser Permanente, as well as my son Desmond’s graduation from Seattle Prep, and my daughter Margaret’s graduation from Washington State University.  We are all looking forward to new and exciting beginnings this coming year. And mine will be with you all, together, writing the next chapter of Epiphany in the city of Seattle. That is what is on my heart and mind as I enter into this sabbatical: preparing for this next chapter.

I am writing this reflection to you from 37,000 feet as I return to Seattle from Livingston, MT.  As many of you know, I gather each year with six priests with whom I formed a prayer group at Virginia Theological Seminary. We have met monthly (via conference call, and now Zoom) and retreated together yearly since 2003. The retreat requires serious reflection and then conversation around our family, work, and prayer lives. They are wise men who know me well, love me, and have walked with me throughout my priestly vocation.  

What was clear to me and to them, is my continued passion for the new and important work of Epiphany. For years, you have heard me teach and preach about the Age of the Holy Spirit, and how every five hundred years or so, the old patterns and perspectives of religion are sloughed off, and something new opens up. That reality could not be clearer to me as we emerge from the pandemic. Epiphany’s destiny is to be an active leader in what the new Episcopal Church, if not Christianity, will look like.

You and I have rebuilt the congregation and we have rebuilt the campus; now it is time to rebuild the image of Christianity in Seattle. We have the best liturgy in the city. Our choral music is extraordinary and the preaching team is strong. We preach Jesus, we preach the Kingdom of God, and we preach with one voice. Our Guided Liturgy for Families is dynamic and growing, fueled by strong parent-leadership. It is now time to go out and invite in. It is time to show the city what our brand of Christianity looks like and to share why our style of worship and our relational theology produces an unstoppable hope.  

What I am going to do while on Sabbatical, besides traveling a bit and resting at our place in Montana, is review all of the articles I’ve written and sermons I’ve preached and classes I’ve taught and create a compendium of Epiphany theological aphorisms. You know most of them… “Relationship is primary;” “Belonging before Believing;” “A Learning Church;” “Spiritual Center of Gravity…” The list goes on. What underlies these statements is the “Epiphany brand of Christianity.”  I’ll return with your elevator pitch… and together we will go out and invite in with sure-footed grace.

The team assembled at Epiphany is excellent and will be even better for my being gone for a while… we’ll pull the Doyt out of the system for a bit so that the team can further mature together. The team we now have is strong, works well together, and knows Epiphany. While I am gone, they will work to prepare for our going out and inviting in this Fall. Laura Rodde will manage the church, in partnership with our most excellent Senior Warden, Kelli Martin, and Treasurer (and former Senior Warden) Doug Marshall. We will also have Nathan Kirkpatrick here for eight weeks. He is an Episcopal priest, and is also a church consultant who worked with us actively last Fall and Winter. He will preach and celebrate, as well as continue to work with our staff. Nathan has a broad and current experience with The Episcopal Church and, so,  will also be working with Kelli and Doug to put together a series of congregational conversations about Epiphany and the rather unique role we play in the broader Episcopal Church. Make sure you sign up for one of those gatherings. Lex Breckinridge, an experienced priest from St. Thomas Medina, will also be with us for a few weeks.

Finally, I want to thank you all for the love and support you have given me and my family. I also want to thank the Vestry for approving and supporting this Sabbatical. I am looking forward to it, and I am looking forward to what will blossom forth from it upon my return.  

Peace upon your souls.