This paternal leave is a real gift by The United Methodist Church that other institutions should follow. Both parents are actually allotted eight full weeks of family leave. My good friend serving a UCC church in Ann Arbor was given a 40 days long leave when she and her partner brought twins into the world. When she first shared that with me I thought she was joking. “Are they trying to be biblical about this or something?” I asked her. It is more than likely that folks will see me around the church here and there during the next four weeks but my real absence will be where it counts; on Sunday mornings. Now please hear me out – I love my job. I think I have the best job in the world and I don’t think I could ask more a more rewarding or more exciting appointment in The West Michigan Conference. But there will be nothing more restful than not getting three kids around for church on Sunday mornings for a full four weeks.
Think about this way. Imagine that once a week, on the busiest day of your work-week when your performance has to be its absolute best, you have to bring your kids to work with you. That’s the day when each week you have to give a major presentation after which about 80 people are going to want to engage you on important matters expecting to have your full attention while your kid is stuffing his face with cookies, or worse yet, just saw something shiny out in the parking lot and is making a bee-line for the front door. Not to mention the risk that right in the middle of the most profound thing you have ever presented (in your own mind at least) your little girl throws herself on the floor in front you and throws the temper tantrum of the century. Once a week you wake up knowing that’s what the next four hours have in store for you. Believe me when I say the kids love going to church, but their behavior on Sunday mornings suggests that they know full well they are going to that place where they will get less than full attention from mom and dad. All this goes to say that four weeks sans the Sunday morning blitz is going to be an important way for our family of three to get used to becoming a family of four.
It’s also a gift to the church to not have the pastor around for a few weeks. For one thing you’re going to have two excellent preachers in my absence: Lisa Batten from the Wesley Foundation, and Deacon Sandra Douglas. Don’t you ever get tired of hearing the same guy preach at you week after week? (don’t answer that question). But seriously, these two are going to PREACH IT in ways that I am not able. On another level the church is about YOU ALL and not about ME and CARA. God has called you into Sunnyside to be faithful disciples of Jesus Christ and you don’t need me peeking around every corner to be faithful disciples. You need each other to pull that off.
But as I said, we’ll be around here and there. I mean, who would dare miss the second annual Trunk-or-Treat, and the Bazaar coming up at the end of the month? But mostly we’ll be home, or visiting family, or learning how to be a family so that at the end of those four weeks we can most faithfully reengage with our church family.