I’ve arrived back in Glasgow. For those who haven’t realised what I’ve been up to, I’ve been on a big sabbatical trip that has kept me out of the country for 12 weeks.
I was a little cautious about indicating online that my flat was empty for an extended period of time. Facebook friends will know something about where I’ve been but twitter and blog friends won’t know as much.
It is very strange being back. I’m pleased to be home but have a bit of a dose of jet lag which is making me feel decidedly under par. I conquered it on the way out by going swimming in the Pacific soon after I arrived in Vancouver. I suspect that I’d better not try that down at Pacific Quay.
I’ve been living with my watch jumping around all over the place for weeks. Since I set off in September, I’ve shifted time zones forward and backwards by 22 hours altogether. I know some people do this in their work all the time, but it has been a new experience for me and one that has been, at times, rather disconcerting.
Anyway, for those interested, here is the list of places visited. I was trying to visit cathedrals and other interesting churches, looking for those which were growing and trying to search out those with a progressive/inclusive agenda. I find I learn from people who are different from me. You learn most I suspect from people who are different from you but like you in some ways. Some of these were substantial visits of a couple of weeks, other were side trips where I met with people for conversations along the way or simply experienced what was going on around me.
- Christ Church Cathedral, Vancouver – good preaching, music and a very familiar inclusive ethos and a diocese rebuilding in places where there has been strife and secession
- St Paul’s, Seattle – beautiful liturgy with string quartet and jazz pianist and a brilliant formation programme for adults
- Compline at St Mark’s Cathedral, Seattle – 500 people at Compline, mostly young people, many lying on the floor
- St David of Wales, Portland – amazing congregational development
- Trinity Cathedral, Portland – iconography institute and huge programme to feed the hungry
- Grace Cathedral, San Francisco – beauty, labyrinths a huge programme of everything and a great team
- St Gregory of Nyssa, San Francisco – where we dance as well as sing the liturgy in another fabulous building
- University of the South: Sewanee – great school of theology
- St Paul’s, Chattanooga – y’all’s welcome at this busy urban parish
- Washington National Cathedral – still suffering earthquake damage, still a spiritual home for the American nation
- All Saints’, Chicago – thriving urban parish, feeding the hungry and worshipping with joy
- St James’s Cathedral, Chicago – very Victorian looking Cathedral, very forward looking Dean
- The Advent, Boston – the heating was broken but the fire had not gone out
- St Michael and All Angels, Sanibel, Florida – a few days retreat in the sun over Thanksgiving
- Cathedral of St John the Divine, New York – A vast, incredible building, where they focus more on people than the vast, incredible building
- St Mark’s in the Bowery, New York – fabulous preaching and creative music with a gospel/blues undercurrent
- St Lydia’s Dinner Church, Brooklyn – a church which emerges out of a meal and singing
Fairly obviously, it has been a busy trip. An incredible one too. It is a period of time that I’ll never forget. Of course, whilst I’ve been exploring these places, I’ve been meeting the most amazing people – “12 weeks hanging out with cool people” was how one of them described it. I’ve also been enjoying learning so much not only about matters ecclesiastical as about Canada and the USA themselves.
Inevitably, coming back to the UK is a bit of a shock to the system. As I try to get my mind around what time it is, I am also starting to put it all together and pick out the themes and moods that I’ve been travelling around. On the plane on the way back home I looked through, sequentially, all the photographs I’ve taken. There are two and a half thousand of them.
I’ve done the most interesting and refreshing project I could think to accomplish with my sabbatical time away and am immensely grateful to all those who made it possible.
Just a few days more and I will be back at work in St Mary’s. Then the outworking of it all as I bring what I’ve learned into my daily life.