Bishop Eric Menees
“And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed.” (Mark 1:35)
This week I have returned from my Sabbatical leave. I cannot tell you how grateful I am to the Diocesan Council for granting me the privilege of taking a two-month sabbatical leave. After thirty years of ministry, it was overdue and much appreciated. Of course, with respects to taking a sabbatical in the past I was my own worst enemy. No one had forbad me from taking a sabbatical, I just convinced myself that I was too busy, would let too many people down, or when I returned the workload would be even greater. I recognize now that this was simply pride speaking – I should have taken a sabbatical leave every ten years or so, and I suspect I would have been even more productive in the long run.
The need to step away, pray, and reflect is steeped in the scriptures, as we see from St. Mark above. That is exactly what I did on my time away. I began with a personal retreat for two-weeks in Ronan, Montana, at the home of a parishioner in the Diocese of Western Anglicans. The Hicks have opened the separate granny flat within their home to clergy who are seeking beauty, silence, and time with the Lord. This was exactly what I experienced during my time in Ronan. What a joy to take long walks at the foot of the Swan Range Mountains!
Following my time in Montana, I returned to the valley for two weeks of chores around the house that had long been put off. From there I attended the College of Bishops meeting in British Columbia, and then off for nearly a month at the Anglican Leadership Institute (ALI), which was held at the FOCUS Study Center on Martha’s Vineyard.
During my time with ALI, I was honored to be with sixteen other leaders from around the world: Australia, Ireland, India, South Sudan, Uganda, Kenya, Nigeria, and Tanzania. The lectures and classes were terrific but the time spent with these others leaders was truly a blessing. To learn of their leadership challenges put in perspective the issues which I find vexing - lawsuits, etc. For example, the week before ALI began, gunmen ambushed Bishop Gabriel of South Sudan in his car. The car was hit seventeen times and, miraculously, only one person was hit and killed. In Northern Kenya, a horrific drought has been ravaging the area, killing livestock and people. In Northern Nigeria, Islamic Terrorists regularly attack and kill Christians, often specifically targeting Anglican Christians. And yet, in the midst of these challenges and countless others, these godly men continue to faithfully lead their dioceses with boldness and grace.
My sabbatical also gave me opportunity to reflect on the Diocese of San Joaquin and my ministry amongst all of you. I count myself immensely blessed to be, by God’s grace, your bishop. I have returned rested and excited about the many challenges ahead.
I very much look forward to our upcoming Diocesan Convention and being able to see so many of the leaders in the Diocese.
I pray you all a very blessed week.