Sabbatical Reflections from Bishop Laura Ahrens

Reflections on the first part of my pilgrimage sabbatical (Mid- January- Mid-February)

February 28, 2020

            This year I am taking my sabbatical in two parts. I just completed the first leg of my sabbatical, jumping right back in with meetings at The Commons in Meriden on Saturday and a parish visit on Sunday. Let me first say, it is great to be back! I missed being in Connecticut and around ECCT, seeing and working with the amazing Christians in our church.  

            The next leg of my sabbatical will be in May and the first part of June. I wanted to be in Connecticut for the season of Lent through Easter, as this is such a deeply profound time for us and our collective faith journey. 

            As I reflect on my time away this past month—time in Mexico learning Spanish, time in prayer and reflection on retreat at SSJE (the Episcopal monastery in Cambridge, MA), and time with college chaplains and religious life professionals at a conference in Hartford—I find I have collected countless stories about the Pilgrim’s Way and the Labyrinths one encounters on Pilgrimage.  Blessings emerged at every turn: in learning—Spanish language study being first and foremost; through challenges— including becoming ill with Montezuma’s revenge; through delightful surprises—my spiritual director encouraging me to go the Museum of Fine Arts for the day to have fun and relax, imagine Jesus my companion, and wonder what he might want me to see. And there is always grief in the journey, as each stop along the way meant not only great hellos, but eventual sad goodbyes to new friends, fellow pilgrims on the way.

            My deepest appreciation for my time away was the gift of the people I met: each one a pearl of unnamed price. Each person I encountered along the way offered a profound learning about the kingdom of God. The kingdom of God is like the man who every day sweeps twigs and branches off the same small path so that others may walk on a clear path. The kingdom of God is like the woman who goes out of her way to offer hospitality: she welcomes, she stays up with those who finish their work late and wakes early to bid farewell to those who need to leave community early. The kingdom of God is like a person who invites you out for coffee in the middle of silent retreat because sometimes talking to someone is the best way to draw closer to God in prayer. The kingdom of God is like a room filled with passionate people seeking together to find ways to embody words of love, hope, forgiveness, acceptance and encouragement in communities that sometimes do not know what it is they seek, what they are looking for, or longing for, or wishing someone would offer to them. 

            The kingdom of God is filled with amazing people, and when we take the time to see them and listen to them, they have much to teach us about how we live in this kingdom. I am blessed to share in ministry with all of you. Thank you for the space to walk with new companions for a time. May their stories, which you will hear through sermons, conversations, and other ways of sharing, help all of us on our holy Way. 

Love in Christ,
Bp Laura

The Pilgrim’s Way: Some thoughts for a sabbatical

January 20, 2020

In 2020 I have been blessed with time for a sabbatical, a time to step away from my busy schedule to focus on learning new tools both for my ministry and our common life in ECCT. I will be exploring new ways to frame our participation in God’s Mission and seeking to deepen my life of prayer.

I have chosen the theme of Pilgrimage to hold my sabbatical time, thinking and praying about verses in scripture such as “Blessed are those whose strength is in you, whose hearts are set on pilgrimage.” (Psalm 84:5 NIV).

I will be taking my sabbatical in two parts – one mid-January to mid-February and one in May. My time in mid-January to mid-February will include a spanish immersion course at the Instituto de Español de la Iglesia Anglicana de México (IDIAM), in Cuernavaca, Mexico. I will be exploring this offering, sponsored by the Episcopal Diocese of Cuernavaca, as a resource for those of us in ECCT who want to strengthen our knowledge of Spanish to partner more fully with our Spanish speaking congregations and neighbors. I will also be taking some retreat time at the Society of St. John the Evangelist in Cambridge, Mass to be in prayer and the deep study of scripture. Then a short course on College Chaplaincy offered by Trinity College and Hartford Seminary called The Place & Purpose of Chaplaincy in Higher Education to learn more about our campus ministry possibilities. Several members of ECCT will be joining me during that course.

This winter pilgrimage time feels like I am being invited to “Come and See” the Lord in new ways. Seeing the Lord through the eyes of the people of Cuernavaca, seeing the Lord in the familiar words of the BCP and the Bible and seeing the Lord through the eyes of our campus communities.

Joseph Campbell has said, “The ultimate goal of any quest is the wisdom and power to serve others.” I pray that this time away will be not only a meaningful pilgrimage for me, but also one that will enhance our ministry within ECCT and empower all of us to more fully participate in God’s Mission. You will all be in my prayers and I ask for yours.

Love in Christ,
Bp. Laura

Leave a Reply