Visiting ‘Thin Places’

In Celtic Christianity, there is a notion of “thin places.” A thin place is somewhere that the barrier between heaven and earth is thin, where one can see through to the other side and experience something of its wonder, hope, and peace. Many Christians, particularly Presbyterians, talk about the island of Iona off the coast of Scotland as a thin place. That island is where Christianity first came to Scotland, and its rugged beauty and the life of the monastery that is still there have inspired generations of pilgrims to go there on retreat to rest, worship, and commune with other pilgrims.

For me personally, Lake Burton, in the Appalachian Mountains of north Georgia, is a thin place. My family has had a cottage on that lake since I was in high school, and I have returned there at least once a year in the summer for about a week ever since then. The lake itself lies in a sort of valley between the mountains, and our cottage is perched just above the lake on the side of Charley Mountain. It faces west across the lake, so you get spectacular sunsets in the evening that dance among the mountain peaks and shimmer over the water. And the whole experience there is how my Jewish friends describe their Sabbath observance: there is no work and no time other than the natural light. We simply rest, and play, and eat, and talk, and enjoy each other and the beauty of God’s creation.

Starting on June 27 and lasting through July 4, I will be there and then in Atlanta on vacation with my family. I’m looking forward to that time, and also want to assure you that we have things well-arranged to ensure the church is in good hands while I’m gone. Sue Bennetch will be ensuring that our pastoral coverage remains as it always is, with a Presbyterian pastor always available to respond to emergencies both during the day and after-hours. The Rev. Cindy Simmons will be preaching and leading worship on July 1, the only Sunday I will be gone. If there is a pastoral crisis with a member, Sue will be able to reach me and let me know, but otherwise I will be truly away: if you email me, I will respond once I return, and the same goes for voicemail, so it is important for anything that is pastoral to go through Sue and the on-call pastors.

I continue to be overjoyed to be your pastor. The last six months have been some of the most meaningful and fulfilling ministry of my life, and I am so grateful that you called me here to be in partnership with you in that ministry. AND, I’m also looking forward to a little bit of time to rest so we can continue to be well together on this journey!

But before any of that happens, we have a wonderful and special day planned this Sunday that I believe will be a kind of thin place for us as a congregation. This Sunday, June 24, we will come together in the Sanctuary at a special worship time of 9:45 AM to celebrate the extraordinary leadership and faithfulness of Keith Brown as the longtime pastor of this congregation and recognize him formally as Pastor Emeritus. I hope you will plan to attend this special service and to stay for the reception that follows. I hope to see you there!

Grace and Peace,