Journey to Renewal


And so the adventure begins: Day 1 of renewal leave. 

I am in East Texas waiting for my train to Chicago. Why Amtrak? The slow pace. The scenery. Someone else doing the driving. No stress or hurry at the airport. Podcasts, a book, naps, repeat. On this trip I will see games at 11 Major League ballparks; only one of which I have visited before. Of those 11 games, two will be versus the Rangers. It’s a  journey to visit all the ballparks I began several years ago; I’ve kept a running diary here: I’ll finish the journey on this trip, with the exception of the Florida teams. I’ll also visit the Baseball Hall of Fame and experience a concert with one of my favorite artists.

I am grateful to my sweet wife and amazing boyos for supporting me, not only on this trip, but in the journey of ministry. Renewal leave is offered for full time clergy every seven years, but after 25+ I’ve never taken it. I’m thankful for the enthusiastic support of my DS Rev Todd Harris, Rev Cammy Gaston of the North Tx Conference, Rev Don Renshaw who will serve as interim pastor of Grace, and the Grace UMC congregation, who have loved me and my family this much- to allow this break to catch my breath, recommit myself for the next decade and a half, and have fun without worrying about the responsibilities of ministry.  I’m out of the pulpit until June 11- eight Sundays without preaching. The longest break I’ve had before this was three consecutive Sundays- in 2009. Fourteen years ago. 

Last April, I participated in a week-long course for mid-career clergy out of Brite Divinty (TCU) called Flourishing in Ministry; it’s offered twice a year, in April and October. I realized I was burned out- thinking about ministry in another setting (not a church), or even considering a change of vocation. And the burnout had taken root before Covid. Then one of my colleagues mentioned how taking leave “saved their ministry,” and something clicked. Yes; that’s what I needed to continue in this great work. Pastors, many of you have been in the work for the long haul without a break; maybe that time is coming your way. Lay people, it would be a great gift to your pastor to check in with them and ask- not just how is your soul since last Sunday, but since your ordination? 

I’m also inbetween appointments, preparing to say goodbye to the best congregation in the Northwest District, and to say hello to the best congregation in the Metro District. God has already been moving in both places. I’m already in a better place spiritually, able to see, feel and hear the still, small voice with a clarity I realized a year ago was missing. 

Some will say/ have said some version of, “Must be nice!!” And yes, it is. But so is well being. So is the ability to serve for five decades, when many people have 5+ career changes. If you looked at your health plan you might find a similar benefit; so what’s the issue again?

I keep looking ahead of me, across the street, where the railroad tracks are flanked by gorgeous green trees. It is a spectacular day out here. In a couple of hours, those tracks will take me to some great experiences. I invite you to check in along the journey. I’ll regularly post where I am and what I am up to for those who are interested. Grace family, I’ll see you again for Youth Sunday 5/21- Miles and Erika are preaching! And my last sermon/farewell Sunday for the Drenners will be 6/11. 

There are many, and much, to be grateful for. Thank you. ⚾️ 🛤️