by the Rev. Eyleen Farmer, Associate Rector
I love the lilting melody of the Norah Jones ballad, Come Away with Me. The opening lines—Come away with me in the night/Come away with me/And I will write you a song—evoke a sense of longing for being alone with the beloved, untethered by the demands of ordinary life. Jones' lyrics speak, of course, of the longing of human lovers to spend time together. But regardless of the circumstances of our lives—single, partnered, married, widowed, whatever—the ache for connection is, I believe, universal.
Even Jesus required time away to stay connected to the One he called Father, the source of all his strength, wisdom, and compassion. That connection made it possible for him to heal the sick and feed the hungry. It was the energy that animated his capacity for forgiveness and made him unafraid to challenge the cruel and inhuman powers of his day.
The gospel writers don't tell us what Jesus was thinking or how he felt when he withdrew from the crowds, only that he did. When there were so many people around the disciples didn't even have time to eat, "(Jesus) said to them, 'Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.' So they went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place." (Mark 6:30-32) Matthew and Luke also record instances when Jesus went off by himself. He got tired. He knew what it was like to be troubled, confused, afraid. There were even times when he tried to hide! (Mark 7:24) But he knew, and teaches us by example, what to do when he got to the end of his tether.
Now, after 22 years of active ministry, and through the generosity of this place I love so dearly, I am going to withdraw for a season. Calvary is giving me the gift of a sabbatical, to begin July 11 and extending through October 9. I will use these three months to rest and reconnect. I will spend time alone at a retreat center in West Virginia. I have family in Louisiana I haven't seen in a decade. There are friendships that have suffered from neglect. I have five grandchildren who are growing up fast. I have a husband who still finds it agreeable to be with me. This spacious time away will make it possible for me to tend these important relationships. And to pay attention to what the Spirit may be trying to say to me.
I will be absent from Calvary for three months, but of course I will have you—all of you—close by in my heart and in my prayers. And when I step into the church on Sunday, October 9, I won't sing you a Norah Jones style song (for this you should be grateful!), but I will rejoice to see you. You, the people of Calvary, have become a part of who I am, and I will always love you.