Pastor John's Sabbatical

September 11-18, 2016

American South West



My last stop was in Santa Barbara, California, to be with the people of Trinity Episcopal Church. During worship on Sunday, September 18, the choir, during the offering, sang a version of St. Patrick’s Breastplate ("I arise today through the strength of heaven, the light of the sun, the radiance of the moon…..Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me….) The Spirit was blessing me with Celtic wisdom in song. 
I also was prayed for by two wonderful sisters in Christ during communion at the rear of the nave. I specifically asked them to pray for my “re-entry” into parish life. What a blessing!


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This was my last hike on the road, in the foothills above Albuquerque. The storm to the south ended up heading east, not in my direction. Behind me were the Sandia Mountains, which rise 5,000 feet above the city. I enjoyed a time of prayer, thinking of my people at Prince of Life.

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In Albuquerque, I visited the Center for Action and Contemplation, where a favorite writer/theologian of mine, Richard Rohr, is based. As I went into the facility to attend the group centering prayer on Wednesday morning, I met this dear couple, Philip and Barbara, and wouldn’t you know they were from Ireland! They were in Arizona for their son’s wedding, and are fans of Father Rohr as well. I had fun telling them how much Susan and I enjoyed our time in the Republic of Ireland. 

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My last morning in Scottsdale, I “summited” Camelback, a 2,700 foot mountain that is regularly used as an exercise trail. This is part of the amazing view of the whole metropolitan area from the top. Tough climb…I’ll tell you more when I return. 

At 10am that morning, I worshiped with the people of Scottsdale Congregational United Church of Christ. They are more “POL-sized.” This congregation has a room for exhibiting art, offers a jazz night in the parish hall every Thursday (funds raised go to mission outreach), and offers an afterschool program for children and youth called, "Scottsdale Neighborhood Arts Place.” 

la casa de cristo

My last leg of the sabbatical was a journey to the American Southwest. On Sunday, September 11, at 8am, I worshiped with the people of La Casa de Cristo (The House of Christ) in Scottsdale, Arizona. They’re average worship attendance is 1,000 folks spread over four services! This is the courtyard, with booths and tables set up with information for their ministries. 

At the back left is a “prayer tower.” I was hoping to find some stairs and pray at the top, but only the bottom portion is available!

August 12- September 4, 2016

Scotland and Ireland



The Bogside Murals in the Catholic portion of the city give the people's perspective of "The Troubles." This dove was created by an artist who gathered the ideas of both Protestant and Catholic children. 


Susan Derry

This is outside our hotel in Derry, Northern Ireland. The "Peace Bridge" behind Susan connects Protestant and Catholic portions of the city.  

Croagh Patrick

Proof that we summitted! Notice the scree at the base of the sign; the last fifth of the hike is over loose rock like this. Some pilgrims walk this barefoot. 


Several days ago, Susan and I walked up Patrick's Mountain, about 2500 feet above Westport and Clew Bay. St. Patrick fasted for 40 days on the mountain, and it is still a pilgrimage destination for many, including us. We lost the view in the fog was we approached the summit. 

Farm Dinner

The last night of the tour, all of us ate at an Irish sheep farm. The hosts were terrific, and the wife taught us all how to make her bread. We learned that 90% of the land in Ireland is used to raise sheep for meat and cows for dairy products. 

Susan and John Ireland

It was great to meet Susan in Dublin after a week alone in Scotland! We joined a coach tour the next day. Here we are at a monastic site called Glendalough. It was raining that day, but more often than not we've had decent weather. The Irish have said we've been lucky!

iona abbey

This is the abbey on the island, a short walk from my hotel. I took part in morning and evening prayer here. What a wonderful way to begin and end my days!


One day I walked to the southern end of the island, where Columba first landed from Ireland. It was a beautiful place to consider God's handiwork. On my way, I walked through the Island's golf course, which I played the next day. Some of the hazards of the courses were sheep and cows. More on that when I get back! 


One of the days on Iona, I took part in a pilgrimage around the island with 20 or so other folks, from many nations. We stopped periodically to learn something about the history, to hear some scripture, and to pray. I'll share some of the insights from that pilgrimage when I return. 


This is the view from my hotel window on Iona. To get to this small island, I travelled by train, ferry, bus, and then ferry again ( it's an island off an island). St. Columba started a monastery here in 563.

St. Giles

On Sunday morning, August 14, in Edinburgh, Scotland, I worshiped with the people of St. Giles Cathedral, Church of Scotland (Presbyterian). Great sermon, wonderful choir, beautiful sanctuary. By the way, their membership is about the size of Prince of Life!


On my first night in Edinburgh, I was fortunate to have a ticket to the "Military Tattoo," a performance of military bands, including bagpipes and drums, from around the world, and staged outside the castle. Fantastic!

August 4-7,2016

Backpacking in Sisters Wilderness

Backpacking friends

Here we are, several miles into our backpack trip into the Three Sisters Wilderness. From eft to right are my friend Peter Kugler from Eugene (Pastor Rob Kugler’s brother), me, friend John Welty from Eugene, son-in-law Kyle Sampson, and son Toby. Behind us is Park Meadow and Brokentop, which we eventually hiked to the base of.

Backpacking moutain

On our third of the four-day, we day-hiked up to the base of Brokentop and saw spectacular scenery. I love these alpine meadows. The whole amazing and beautiful eco-system here really speaks to me of the artistry of the Creator.

And now, off to Scotland and Ireland!


July 24-August 2, 2016

Salt Spring Island

Family in Salt Spring

One of the goals of renewal time is renewal with family. Susan and I, our three children, son-in-law Kyle and father-in-law Bob spent a wonderful ten days on the Canadian Gulf island of Salt Spring. This was taken on one of the beaches  We enjoyed long hikes, paddled out into the bay in kayaks, visited a goat cheese factory, and played.

View Salt Spring

This is the view of the harbor off Ganges, from the house we were able to rent. I was often the first one up, enjoying a cup of coffee, and giving thanks to God as I took in this view.

family band

It was fun to play and sing together as a family. This is on the front porch of the house. You can find the chords and words to any song online!

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This was Toby’s sleeping accommodations every night. Susan and I thought we’d try it out….


July 15-22, 2016

Minneapolis/St. Paul, MN



At the Easter Vigil, I was in a group that acted out the story of Shadrach, Meschach and Abednego and the fiery furnace. I got to play King Nebedchanezzar. Tall crown, huh? 


St Olaf has over 1700 works of art on display! This wooden sculpture says (in cryptic writing) "seek his kingdom first and the rest will be added to you as well." What do you see?  


The evening worship services at St Olaf this week walked us through Lent and Holy Week, to demonstrate possibilities. In this picture, the altar is set up for Ash Wednesday. Notice the painting in the chancel, the work of a former student. It spoke to me of the verse in Isaiah 53 that we read on Good Friday: "a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief."

St. Olafs campus

On this Monday, July 18, I am at St. Olaf College for the Conference on Worship, Theology and the Arts. Beautiful campus!  


The church has patio seating with umbrellas out near the street, and on this Sunday they had reserved a food truck to cater to hungry worshipers after the service.  I enjoyed a pulled pork sandwich while conversing with one of the pastors and a former employee of Augsburg Fortress, our publishing house. Food truck in the POL parking lot, anyone? Smile  


Pat was my spirited tour guide. She has been worshiping at Central since she was 18. As a young woman, her favorite place to sit was in the balcony, front and center, where the sound board is now! 


There was a wonderful procession at the beginning of worship. Gave me ideas! 

Wall photos

As I walked towards the sanctuary, I saw this display of probably 30 photographs from a local artist. She has placed a Scripture passage below various images. Below the young woman with the colorful Mohawk and the older man with the clever umbrella are the words of Isaiah 51:11- "Everlasting joy will cover their head." 



Sunday morning, July 17, I worshiped with the people of God at Central Lutheran in downtown Minneapolis. The church has a beautiful sanctuary that seats 3,000, and a wonderful pipe organ. They also have a "Restoration Center" in the fellowship hall Monday morning, providing services and a hand-up to those experiencing house-lessness. 


St. Olafs

Sunday morning, July 17, I worshiped with the people of God at Central Lutheran in downtown Minneapolis. The church has a beautiful sanctuary that seats 3,000, and a wonderful pipe organ. They also have a "Restoration Center" in the fellowship hall Monday morning, providing services and a hand-up to those experiencing house-lessness. 



My renewal theme involves having the time to really be notice the presence  of God all around me. I love this quote in the exhibit from Georgia O'Keefe: "In a way nobody sees a flower- really- it is too small - and to see takes time, like to have a friend takes time." 


 Over the weekend of July 15-17, I visited Minneapolis before attending a conference at St. Olaf, south of the Twin Cities. Small world: the Minneapolis Institute of the Arts was exhibiting 39 of Paul Allen's private collection of landscape paintings. The exhibit is called "Seeing Nature." Timely for my renewal theme, right? 

This Claude Monet water lily is from the last years of his life, when he only painted water lilies as his theme. He kept seeing something new. I am reminded of coming back to familiar sections of scripture again and again, and finding something new. My life has changed; the Spirit speaks to me what I need to hear.  


July 12-14,2016

Philadephia, PA

Philly pastor

This is Pastor Kari Lee, from Lutheran Church of the Holy Communion in downtown Philadelphia. I knew her mother when I pastored in Eugene. Pastor Lee' s father was a church historian at our seminary in Mt. Airy, where we met for coffee. She benefitted from a Lilly grant five years ago, so she was very interested in my plans.


Seminary friend

My seminary friend Keith picked me up at the Philadelphia Airport on Monday July 11. This is us touring the streets of the city the next day. We saw a wonderful exhibit on the making of the U.S. Constitution at the Constitution Center, and then the next day saw the 9-1-1 Museum in NYC. Powerful and poignant. 

July 8-11, 2016

Cincinnati, Ohio

Celtic church_ohio

Sunday afternoon at 5, I attended the Celtic worship at Redeemer in this beautiful chapel. The person who wrote the liturgy did so after she was inspired by time spent on the Scottish island of Iona, where I will be in August. Small world!  

paddle boat

Sunday afternoon, July 10, I traversed a pedestrian bridge across the Ohio River into Kentucky. There was a Bacon, Brats and Bourbon Festival going on, so I had to try some of the latter. I am pretty much an IPA guy, so this was an adventure for my taste buds Smile  


On Sunday, July 10, I worshiped at Episcopal Church of the Redeemer in Cincinnati. This is their contemporary worship service in the fellowship hall. We even laid hands on and commissioned a group of high schoolers traveling through on their way to a mission trip, just like we do at POL! 

Room view

This is the view of the city from Mt. Adams, and the RC church.


On Saturday afternoon, after I enjoyed the wonderful ( and free!) Cincinnati Museum of Art, I came upon the beautiful Roman Catholic Church of the Immaculata in the charming Mt. Vernon neighborhood, where I attended a 4:30 mass. The priest gave a wonderful homily on the Good Samaritan story. After the week of horrific deaths in Minnesota, Louisiana and Texas, he  drew our attention to the work of reconciliation with our neighbors different from us. I even received communion at this RC church!


This painting, called "Shepherd and Sheep," from the Cincinnati Art Museum, is by the Dutch painter Anton Mauve, from about 1880. As I gazed at it, I reflected that my people are pastoring each other, and are being pastored by others. I am grateful! 

July 2, 2016

Portland, Oregon

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This is what not-writing-a-sermon looks like on the 

first day of my renewal time! Great time with family at the Waterfront Bluesfest!

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