As you may have heard (or now know), I am back from Sabbatical! As I resume my responsibilities, I thought it would be good to give you a glimpse into my Sabbatical season—just a few highlights and takeaways. 

Sabbatical was restful and refreshing on many levels. Throughout this time away, I carried a constant sense of the Lord’s invitation to rest—and rest I did. I enjoyed solitude and increased time to myself. I was nurtured as an introvert through an unhurried pace. And I delighted in extra time with Julia, our daughters, and some extended family.

We left Vancouver for two-and-a-half months and traveled locally, enjoying the beauty of Little Bow, Nelson, Summerland, Saltspring, and Sidney. One highlight among many was Julia and I spending three nights in Tofino without children (the longest we’ve been without them since Ansley first appeared 8 years ago). During our time there, we had the joy of witnessing a meteor shower at one of the most beautiful beaches in the world. Sabbatical was full of little moments like this that nourished our bodies and souls.

In a way, everything became simpler during Sabbatical. I was listening to the song Human by Daughter while on a run. (If you look up the lyrics, don’t read too much into it!). The chorus sings, “Underneath the skin there’s a human. Buried deep within there’s a human. And despite everything I’m still human.” Sabbatical helped me reconnect with the simplicity of being human: a person bundled up with limits, joys, shortcomings, gifts, and so much more like the compassion, mercy, and grace of God at work in me. 

Yes, everything became simple, but not every ideal I had about Sabbatical was realized. Naively, I hoped Sabbatical might sort out some of the quirks and rough edges of my soul. I confess, they are all still there. Even so, at the present there is a stillness and peace that accompanies these broken parts. The Lord has been good to me.

On behalf of my family: thank you.

Thank you for this profound and generous gift. 

Thank you.

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As you know, the end of my Sabbatical coincided with the death of my beloved friend, Don Lewis. Don was a pillar in the life of our community and in my life. My heart is split with grief. Yet alongside the sorrow is a stream of gratitude. It is as if Don filled my life with seeds that his death has watered and now they are beginning to bloom. I am grateful for who Don was and how he lived—his unique way of being a friend, his ability to listen and sit in silence, his reluctance to offer advice, and his eagerness to pray and never in a hurried way, and his deep commitment to the gospel of grace. While it was difficult to mark the end of my Sabbatical with preaching at his funeral, it was also an honour and a gift. It helped me focus in on the substance of what we believe about death and life. I want to thank everyone who helped with his funeral service, and to everyone who has reached out with condolences during this time.

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This past Sunday, we returned to St. Peter’s to worship alongside you—what a delight! After visiting many different churches during Sabbatical, I have a renewed appreciation for what makes us unique, or what makes us who we are. It was a joy to see all of you and briefly reconnect. I noticed there was a warmer tone to our gathering—and not simply because I was back for the first time in a long time or because of the renovations at Robson Square. To me, it was clear the pandemic created a heightened sense of appreciation for being with one another, and, therefore, a renewed loving hospitality. The warmth we felt on Sunday was compelling—a beautiful witness to the goodness of God with us. To co-opt the words of the apostle Paul, I have no need to instruct you on this matter, but brothers and sisters, I urge you to do this more and more! (1 Thes. 4:9-10).

As I step back into my responsibilities, I am moving at a slower pace than usual—this is due in part to transitioning out of a Sabbatical pace, and due to carrying grief with the change. I appreciate your patience and gentleness during this time. I also want to thank Preston and our team for their phenomenal leadership and work over the past few months.

I look forward to preaching this coming Sunday and being with all of you again. If you haven’t been to St. Peter’s in some time, or at all since we’ve resumed gathering, please know that it would be a great joy to see you this Sunday.

Read more articles by Alastair Sterne or about Vision.

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