26th May 2023

There comes a point before most holidays when I wonder if I still want to bother. Ticking off jobs that need doing before leaving, hoping I’ve not overlooked anything important, making sure we have all the right documentation – none of it is impossibly stressful of course, but it can sometimes blunt my enthusiasm for going away. That said, having arrived safely at our destination, and even if there have been complications to our journeying, I’m always glad to be away and in the new situation.

When I say ‘new situation’, I’m not just meaning somewhere Merry and I have never visited before, with its novel experiences and encounters. We also have favourite places that are very familiar to us, and returning to them can be like greeting old friends. The newness there is that we’re slightly different people from last time: life and the passing of the years will have changed us, and so the ‘situation’ can’t be quite the same as last time.

One of our ministers was telling me recently that he’s about to go on sabbatical, and when I asked what he was planning for himself, he seemed slightly embarrassed to say he had a small project he wanted to work on, but otherwise most of the time was unscheduled, apart from some holiday with his wife. I congratulated him on what sounded to me like an excellent programme: lots of space to stand back from the busy-ness of pastoral ministry to be able to reflect on whatever percolates up from within himself, and from God’s Spirit; time to discern and appreciate the ‘new’ in his situation.

Ken Stewart