To: The Village A Series of Short Notes From Pastor Eric
Many of the people at the Village who know me well will tell you that I have long planned to take a Sabbatical after my fortieth birthday. The reason for this Sabbatical has changed over time. At first, it mostly had to do with reassessing whether, after ten years, I was still called to be a pastor at the Village or if God had something else for me. Since I feel that over the past year God has reaffirmed my call to the Village, the idea of Sabbatical then moved from a time of evaluation to a space for my family and I to refresh and refocus. Most recently, however, it has taken shape as a time to lay the foundations of a book which I have been planning to write for a very long time now.
My Sabbatical will take the following form: Susan and I will start with a week-long vacation in early June. When we return, our family will move out of the Seneca House through the end of July. For the whole of June, we will be completely in cognito in regards to Village happenings: you may or may not see us on Sunday evenings and will not see us at other Village events. In July, Sue and I will pick up some light duties at the Village but will be focused primarily on book writing and spending time with our kids. On the last Sunday of July I will resume preaching and the four of us will head back into our home and resume our regular schedules.
The four of us definitely need your prayers.
That we would be able to take a deep breath, relax, and trust Rod, the Leadership Community, and all of you… and/or just the Holy Spirit… to handle things well while we’re away.
That God would provide the money necessary for a small vacation and other Sabbatical-related expenses.
That I would be able to be diligent in my research for the book and the work of writing it.
That this would be a time our kids will look back on as rich, restful, and identity forming.
That Sue would take time during this Sabbatical to hone her craft as a musician and artist.
Most of all, that our family would rest and meet God in a special way so that we come back refreshed and excited about what He is doing in our lives and at the Village.
My plan for the book is very simple: I will start by combing through the three hundred or so sermons that I have preached during the past ten years and select twenty of them that articulate key ideas and themes that God has revealed in our community. I plan to have these transcribed and begin framing the outline for the chapter layout. The book will include a few chapters that go into more detail about the Table of Decision and the Hot Seat Model as a whole. Once the outline is constructed, I will begin working up the rough draft and partnering with writers in our community to help me complete each chapter. My goal with this book is to write it in community. My hope is that things will move quickly and that by the end of the year I might be able to self-publish and begin distribution.
Over the last few months, The Village has been so wonderfully gracious to my family. You generously cared for us during Christmas and even more recently with the gift that you gave me following my ordination exam. Some of you gave anonymously and others gave directly, so I just want to say thank you to all for taking care of Sue and I and the kids in this way. We love you and hope to continue to serve The Village community for a very long time.
The Village Gives
This year, the Village is planning to give 10% of the moneys it receives to other ministries which are serving in the surrounding community. Rod and I gave each Monastic Community the task of selecting two ministries that they would like the Village to support. These organizations will be put on a six week rotation to receive 10% of the offering given that particular week. The reason we assigned these to Monastic Communities is that we wanted to look into how we could support these organizations not only financially, but also through volunteering or other active endeavors. Each Monastic Community will also provide the larger community with information about their two selected ministries. The purpose in all of this is that just as God has called us as individuals to set aside money each week to support The Village, we believe that He has also called The Village as a body to do the same, trusting Him with the firstfruits of His provision.
The Leadership Community
As I have said in other letters and from the front at the Village, last August saw a transition in Village leadership. This new group of leaders has been in training and in practice at Pilgrim Groups and in Monastic Communities, and the exciting part of my Sabbatical is that you will get to see them team-teach through the months of June, July, and August. I am excited about what God has been doing with these leaders. They have taken hold of leading Monastic Communities, Pilgrim Groups, and leadership Meetings, pre-marriage counseling, missional activities, and Village finances. They have begun putting their own stamp on things and wrestling with the hard issues of being a leader. In particular, I would like to recognize Ron & Tamaki and Hannah & Steve, who have opened their homes to host and lead Monastic Communities. I would ask that if you are in either of these Monastic Communities, that you would make their job as easy as possible by helping with logistics, arriving prepared and eager to see God move in the discussion/decisions, and encouraging them by wholeheartedly supporting their leadership efforts (Hebrews 13:17).
(Reprinted from last letter)
In Monastic Communities where the men, women, and children gather, we will spend time practicing the 6 Ways. In particular, we will spend time talking about the neighborhoods that we are present in as well as their stories. We’ll practice listening to each other and listening to what the Holy Spirit has to say about our particular mission. We’ll throw parties together and learn how to talk to our friends about celebration. We’ll practice what we’ve been learning in Pilgrim Groups and begin to offer it to the world around us. Finally, in both Pilgrim Groups and Monastic Communities, prayer will be a central focus. In particular, we’ll learn to listen to the Holy Spirit regarding what’s happening in our community and in the lives of our friends who don’t yet know Jesus and what He wants us to do.
The vision for these Monastic Communities and Pilgrim Groups is that in the next 3-5 years, we would plant one or two new churches from them. If you join a Monastic Community, you need to understand that this won’t be your group forever. We intend to see each Community split into two or three groups after a year’s time because of their growth through transformed lives. Monastic Communities will be open groups. They will be permeable to new people coming in or just visiting. Pilgrim Groups will be open in a more restricted sense, or semi-permeable. They will be open to people who want to jump in and stay committed. My hope is that in five years, we will have planted a new Village on the south side and a new Village close to the U of A and that the Village at Cloverland will be bursting at the seams. I also know, however, that the Village is highly transitional and moves at a turtle’s pace. So please don’t be discouraged if starting things don’t happen overnight. But join me in pointing your turtle nose in the direction of mission and let’s enjoy the journey we are on together.