Dear Martin Family,
This past Sunday our District Superintendent Rev. Philip Rhoades shared that the Bishop and Cabinet of the Central Texas Conference, by approval of our Martin Staff Parish Relations Committee and Administrative Council, have extended to me a Spiritual Renewal Leave beginning Sept. 1 for a period of 6 months.
There are two primary purposes to this time away. The first purpose is personal – a time of rest and refocusing.
I literally need to catch my breath. These last four months have been for me a whirlwind during which I have felt as if I am always in survival mode. While many families have had their own challenging experiences of cancer, the unique reality of brain cancer is that swiftly and dramatically impacts day to day function and interpersonal relationships. Each moment of every day is filled with caring for the physical and emotional needs of my family as we fumbled our way into the realities of a glioblastoma diagnosis. At the same time, I am also trying to meet the most pressing needs of our church and congregation and feeling overwhelming guilt and stress because I simply can’t do all of it successfully. For a good while, I really thought I would be able to if I just tried hard enough or “figured out” how to make it all work, but I am increasingly aware that it is just not humanly possible. Therefore, during this time away I will be refocusing. The gift of this time will allow me to give Travis attention and experiences while he remains able to do and enjoy the things that are meaningful as a family. I will also be able to parent Erin more effectively as she grapples with what all of this means to her now, in the months to come, and a future without her father. She is our rock-star, but she also holds things inside until she is ready to share and she needs my full attention when those times come.
The second purpose is for the church – a time of recharging.
For the church, I need to be a pastor who leads with a clear, big view perspective of the current season and the next season, and how to lead in both. It is not possible for me to be that pastor when I am in survival mode. I do not know what my life will look like or the challenges my family will be facing come March 1. You know me well enough in this our fifth year together to know that that reality tends to make me a little bit nuts; after all, I am human. As human beings, we seem to have an insatiable desire to know the future while also being terribleat predicting it! This time away will allow me to recharge and put in place the best plans available to my family that will allow me to be the best pastor I can be for you. Having said all of this, I still feel the need to say how sorry I am that I cannot be that for you right now. I am sorry for so many reasons that we are living this diagnosis, and one of those reasons is the impact it has on my ability to be my best for you. I don’t need you to tell me that it is okay, for I know that is true also. I just want you to know how much I wish this were all different – for us all.
Rest, Refocus, and Recharge – those are the primary purposes of this Renewal Leave.
You may be thinking about all that this is going to mean – certainly questions about who will cover my responsibilities, teaching, leading the staff, etc. Rest assured, the Cabinet and I, have been processing these considerations for several months, and the SPR has been part of these conversations for quite some time. Rev. Dr. Scott Youngblood will be a loving and effective substitute while I am away. As you know, our amazing Martin staff is more than capable. They, along with the lay leadership, have carried a great deal of my responsibilities of late anyway. I know this is challenging time in society and in the life of the Church Universal, but I want to assure you that we have done our best to consider everything. Plans have been made, grace abounds, and the church will be fine.
How do I know this? Because I know YOU! YOU will continue doing the things to which you are called. YOU will continue to uphold your covenant vows with God, Martin, and one another: to support Christ’s Church as it exists at Martin with your PRAYERS, PRESENCE (in-person or online), GIFTS, SERVICE, and WITNESS.
I know by March I will be longing to be back with you. But I’m also anticipating connection with God in perhaps the deepest measure I have ever known. As overwhelming as it is at times, I am blessed to have the opportunity to walk with and care for my family as we do our best to live well into the future. As we learned from our friends Otis and Amylyn, to commit ourselves to putting the “Blast” in Glioblastoma! I covet your continued prayers during this time of renewal leave.
I am grateful for you, for all we have shared since 2017, and for all we will share in the future.
aka “The Vicar”