By the time you read this, I’ll be gone.
Not permanently, though. Just to South Carolina. Yes, lovely Fort Jackson, in Columbia, South Carolina, where I will be spending 53 days at the Naval Chaplaincy School and Center, completing my training to be a US Navy Chaplain. Some of that time will be spent traveling to various sites on the Eastern seaboard where the Navy provides chaplains (Navy and Marine Corps bases, as well as Coast Guard stations and Public Health Service sites), and a week of it will be spent in the South Carolina back woods, experiencing a very condensed version of US Marine Corps field training.
Most of it, however, will be spent in classrooms, enduring an art form that has been perfected by the US Navy, known as “Death by PowerPoint”. And during those seemingly interminable lecture hours (and hours, and hours), I’m sure my thoughts will quite frequently drift to Gower and the red brick church at the corner of 3rd St. & Shivel Ave.
Make no mistake, though I will be some 1,000 miles away from Gower Christian Church, I will still likely be in daily contact, via phone and email. This is not an indoctrination-style training – I may be up before the sun to do physical training each morning, but when the school day ends, my time is mine to do with as I see fit, and I have no doubt that keeping abreast of what’s going on here in Gower will be part of what I “see fit” to do.
While I’m gone, several very capable ministers will be filling the pulpit and serving as emergency pastoral contacts. If something comes up that you need to speak with a minister about, please don’t hesitate to contact one of them. If, however, you really need to speak with me, I will certainly be available – you may just have to wait a couple of hours to hear back from me!
Most of all, though, I would encourage you to stay involved. I know from experience that at many churches, when the pastor is away on sabbatical, vacation, or extended leave of absence, there’s a temptation among the members to drift away a bit until the pastor comes back. I hope, however, that each of you will make sure to be here each Sunday that you can – not for my benefit or for the benefit of the minister filling the pulpit, but for your own.
When I get back, things are going to get a little wild. I’ll be coming back just in time for Thanksgiving, and we’ll be heading straight into Advent after that. We’re going to be starting a year-long book & Bible study the first week in Advent, and we’ll be looking ahead to doing a baptism and membership class at the beginning of 2015. In the meantime, though, I must head off to serve our country, but in the infamous words of Arnold Schwarzenegger…
“I’ll be back.”