The Renewal Leave

By Rev. Keith Turman | 2022-05-27 | 4 min read

In August 2020, we were awarded a $50,000 grant to enable our participation in the National Clergy Renewal Program. FUMC Waynesville is one of 140 congregations across the United States selected to participate in this competitive grant program, which is funded by the Lilly Endowment. The grants allow congregations to support their pastors with the gift of extended time away from their ministerial duties and responsibilities. Robert Saler, director of the Lilly Endowment Clergy Renewal Programs, noted that the National Clergy Renewal Program integrates key attributes of healthy congregations, including a mutual respect for the renewal needs of both ministers and the congregations they serve. “The program provides an opportunity for congregations to express appreciation for their ministers’ service and leadership. It pays homage to the timeless wisdom embedded in the practice of reflection and renewal.”

So they asked us, “What makes your heart sing?” Chan and I immediately knew the answers. Our hearts come alive when we’re together, occupying the same space. Being mountain people, we vacation at the beach, and we know from vast experience that an escape to the sea is a gift for the soul. I am a runner. My heart sings every time I lace up the shoes and run out the front door. We are missionaries, drawn to new places and new people. Lost in curiosity, we sometimes get lost in the city. And we’ve learned to get lost on purpose. We discover hidden markets and hole-in-the-wall restaurants. We’ve happened upon cathedrals and street musicians. The real joy is discovering people—unique creations of God with beautiful stories. Our hearts come alive in our vocations. We love our jobs because we love our people, and we love the stories you tell. The FUMC grant writing team was also quick to answer. First United Methodist Church Waynesville loves to sing. The sanctuary is especially built for it, and the people are wired for it. From organ to orchestra, electric guitar to banjo, soloist to chamber choir—music is vital to this group’s journey. Music tells a story with power to transform the soul. And the music inspires movement. What really gets the heart beating around here is the opportunity to serve the community. This church comes alive when the community is in need. This church loves the people of Waynesville, and loves the stories they tell.

Our renewal program will be a pilgrimage. From July 1 through October 15, Chan and I will backpack across Spain and Portugal, following the Camino de Santiago’s medieval pilgrimage routes. The classic pilgrimage was marked by a sense of spiritual purpose and renewal, with a basic understanding that one’s life would be transformed by the journey. We will discover mountains and beaches, markets and cathedrals. We will walk through museums and run ancient pilgrim trails. We will meet new people, discover new places, and capture life-giving stories. FUMC Waynesville will be on pilgrimage too. Each Sunday morning dynamic preachers and storytellers will lead the church on exciting journeys. Wednesday programs will allow the congregation to experience new places and new people. We will enjoy the food, be inspired by the music, and be transformed by the stories. Ruth Feldman’s poem, Detour, captures what we have in mind:

I took a long time getting here,

much of it wasted on wrong turns,
back roads riddled by ruts.
I had adventures

I never would have known
if I proceeded as the crow flies.
Super highways are so sure
of where they are going:

they arrive too soon.
A straight line isn’t always
the shortest distance
between two people.
Sometimes I act as though
I’m heading somewhere else
while, imperceptibly,
I narrow the gap between you and me.
I’m not sure I’ll ever
know the right way, but I don’t mind
getting lost now and then.
Maps don’t know everything.

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