My Turn by Carol Harston

Highland, it is so good to be back living among you in the regular rhythms of our congregational life. Drew begins seeing patients tomorrow in his orthopedic clinic at Norton Brownsboro. The boys are settled into their new schools. And as fall begins unraveling outside of my window, I am sitting in my new dwelling place in the church offices. 

We return from a year in Durham, North Carolina, where we learned new Sabbath rhythms. I framed the year through God’s command to the Israelites found in Leviticus 25:1-7 where God insists on “a year of complete rest for the land” after six years sowing, pruning, and gathering. We let our land rest for the year.

Rest did not look like stillness, as we parented two young boys (ages 6 and 4) and welcomed a third boy (now 9 months). Rest did not look like vacation, as I began work on a Doctor of Ministry degree at Duke Divinity (which I will be continuing through the next 18 months). Rest looked like hanging up my robe, sitting in the pew of Watts Street Baptist Church as a family, traveling to the mountains on weekends, and learning what it meant to love you from afar.

Rest looked like remembering that God is God and that I am not. Rest looked like remembering that the church fully functions without my presence or effort.  Rest looked like remembering that we are “creatures made in the image of a resting God,” as Walter Brueggemann writes in Sabbath as Resistance.

I am grateful for your warm welcome as we have returned. I am in the early days of settling into my new role as “Associate Pastor for Faith Formation and Congregational Engagement.” I am filling my hours by listening to the needs and dreams of the congregation, getting to know adult programming, and catching up on all you’ve been up to since we left last July. The core values, mission, and vision that you articulated in Vision 20/20 sits on my desk as a sign of the good work that you have begun as you find your way forward into a future of abundance, persistence, and mercy.

I look forward to this new chapter together. This Sabbath year has changed our family, and I believe it is for the better. May these days ahead invite us all to live into the tireless work of sowing, pruning, gathering, and resting. For in doing so, we might be participating in God’s transforming of our land, our hearts, and our hands.  ~ Carol