This is not an easy blog to write.
Every bone in my body rebels at telling you the decision that I made as wildfires sweep across our communities in Oregon. My pastoral character tells me that if ever there was a time that the presbytery needs me, it is now. Yet, I need to inform you that starting Friday I will be taking a week-long vacation. I will be gone until Monday, September 21 and there will be no Holy Breadcrumbs next week. It will be a true vacation—no emails, no phone calls, no writing.
I had been waiting for the right moment for months. All of us on staff essentially postponed our vacations in recent months as we responded to the sudden crisis that the coronavirus placed upon us. The complete shift of how we worship and connect was followed by civil unrest over the murder of George Floyd and the sorting out in our churches about our unconscious involvement.
I don’t mean this as a complaint. It is just a fact. But I only took two vacation days in the first eight months of the year. Since early August I have been encouraging staff as well as myself to finally take the vacation that we had put off. Many of us have been showing the strain of long sustained crisis management.
In the last four weeks I have made socially distanced travel plans, reserved rooms, bought new outdoor equipment, and carved this time out feeling that I could sneak a break in between crises.
And then 2020 just revealed her ugly character again. Just two days before well-deserved travel plans the state of Oregon erupts in what the governor is calling “an historic level disaster.” Most pastors are wired for such moments as this. We pride ourselves on walking with people and communities in their most critical moments—births, weddings, funerals, hospitalizations and community tragedies. Days off don’t mean a thing when a family or a congregation is in crisis.
Which is why my decision this week both feels right and eats away at me. I am taking my vacation anyway. I need this. Our staff needs me to do this. I believe the presbytery needs me to do this.
But I titled this blog post “My Test of Faith” because in recent months an insightful friend has challenged me to look at a subtle arrogance that may be permeating my character. Quite honestly, it has been hard to hear this. I certainly don’t consider myself an arrogant person. I think I tend toward modesty and humility. But he has a point. In the midst of all these crises he asked recently, “Why do you think you are so important that you can’t take time off? What role does God play in all this?”
Ouch! I didn’t like hearing that even as I realized he had a point. I couldn’t even stutter my way to a good answer. The fact of the matter is that subconsciously I believe that if I don’t do something, nobody will, not even God!
So this next week is a test of my faith. Every pastoral bone in my body says that I should abandon my vacation plans and be present to the presbytery in this time. But my soul knows better. My body knows better. It’s been a long stretch of hyper vigilance and nearly 24/7 crisis management. It is time for a break. It is time to refresh my soul.
But more importantly it is time to trust my staff.
It is time to trust you.
It is time to trust God.
It is time to admit that I am not indispensable.
Know that my prayers are with you in this time.
Know that I believe that between you and God “You’ve got this!”
At least that is what I am working on. That is my little test of faith.
By Rev. Brian Heron, Presbyter for Vision and Mission, Presbytery of the Cascades