La Convivencia Sabbatical project
This sabbatical project is inspired by the period of Spanish history called La Convivencia (The Co-existence), in which Muslims, Jews, and Christians, lived together in relative harmony for nearly 700 years. In this sabbatical we—pastor, family, and congregation—seek a deeper understanding of the co-existence between religious identities and practices, the demands of intergenerational ministry and family life, and the need for spiritual well-being and Sabbath time.
This site contains information and resources for the sabbatical. It will become our journal, travelogue, photo album, and repository of our stories and learnings from this experience.
Camino de Santiago de Compostela
I am doing an eleven-day solo walk on the Camino using the “Camino Portugues,” the pilgrimage route that runs from Lisbon to Santiago de Compostela, which approximately 19% of pilgrims take to Santiago. I will begin my route in Porto, Portugal making the trek to Santiago, traveling approximately 16 miles a day.
Placed at the beginning of the sabbatical, this pilgrimage will allow me to decompress, shift gears, and set the tone for the rest of the sabbatical with a time of spiritual seeking and renewal. Walking the Camino not only connects with a life-long fascination with pilgrimage, but also relates to a more recent development in my life: an effort to cultivate greater health and well-being to sustain me spiritually, physically, emotionally, and mentally over the long run. I call this my “more maintenance” campaign, as in, “I just require more maintenance than I used to.” Part of this campaign has included a newfound passion for hiking. I find the outdoors deeply restorative, providing an “analog” spiritual practice in the midst of a digitally-infused life and ministry.
June 17-July 8
Traveling in Portugal and Andalusia will allow us to investigate our interfaith identity against the backdrop of Portuguese and Spanish culture. We propose an itinerary that will take us from Lisbon to the heart of Andalusia—Seville, Cordoba, Grenada—and then north to Toledo and Madrid. All of these locations offer a rich, living history of interfaith influence and identity.
For example, within the barrio of Santa Cruz, the old Jewish quarter in Seville, lies the Seville Cathedral: a huge gothic cathedral and La Giralda its Moorish bell tower—which was once a minaret. Within the “Juderia,” the old Jewish quarter, in Cordoba is the Mezquita—a mosque dating back to the 8th century, within which a cathedral was built in the 16th century. It is home to one of only three medieval synagogues remaining in Spain. Toledo is home to the Sinagoga del Transito (Museo Sefardi)—a 17th century synagogue and Spain’s national Jewish museum, as well as the Sinagoga de Santa Maria la Blanca—a synagogue built by Muslim workers around 1200, and later became a church in 1492 after the expulsion of Jews from Spain.
July 9-july 30
italy and france
Our children are the center of our lives; we want this sabbatical to be meaningful for them. This sabbatical falls at the perfect time, as our kids are at ideal ages for this experience: the young ones are old enough to travel well, and our older ones have not yet left home for college.
In discussing the sabbatical and additional travel beyond Portugal and Spain, we looked for sites that would help us spend time together as a family while experiencing the history, culture, and wonder of Europe. Our kids expressed a desire to visit Rome, Venice, and Paris. We plan to visit these cities, along with Cinque Terra (in Italy) and Provence (in France) over the course of three weeks.
Following these travels across Portugal, Spain, Italy, and France, we will head to Jenny’s family’s cottage in Quebec, Canada. The cottage is our favorite place on the planet. There we are surrounded by the beautiful quietude of nature, and enjoy swimming, canoeing, and campfires. At the cottage we spend time with family and friends, whom we rarely have the chance to see throughout the year.
This will be pure Sabbath time for us to recuperate and reflect on our travels, and sort through our videos, pictures, artwork, and journal entries. I plan to do some writing and reading about the experience of keeping Sabbath time.
Andrew McMaster wrote a new song for my sabbatical, which our band, For the Spirit, played on our final Sunday before sabbatical.
Pilgrimage is an ancient spiritual practice that flourished within Christianity in the Middle Ages. The three chief pilgrimage routes were Jerusalem, Rome, and Santiago de Compostela.
The American religious landscape is changing. Today, about 25% of Americans and 30% of people under 30 are religiously unaffiliated. The number rises to 36% among younger millennials. Many in the Church see this as an abandonment of faith. However, this is a profound misreading of our current situation.
Many people comment that they wish they had a sabbatical. I wish they had one too. We are over worked, over programmed, and exhausted. The Bible’s call for Sabbath is a reminder of the need for physical rest and personal and spiritual renewal. We are reminded that we are loved by God not by what we can do or produce, but simply as we are.
We spend much of our lives tethered to our digital devices. While there is much good that comes from it, this can also create digital fatigue. The sabbatical will be a time to unplug and rediscover the joys and challenges of analog living. I hope to trade FOMO (fear of missing out) to JOMO (joy of missing out)!
Family is at the heart of who we are and what we do. We are taking three generations of our family on this journey. It is a precious time to pass on stories and experiences and create new ones together.