Winding Down


No despair of ours can alter the reality of things, nor stain the joy of the cosmic dance, which is always there. —Thomas Merton, 1915–1968

Hello everyone, my sabbatical time is winding down (It was a short summer Charlie Brown!). Arthur will be here this Friday and then we will be headed back on Sunday September 1st.

I have had a wonderful and rejuvenating experience that included much time of reflection. The Icon writing class in Russian 14th century style at St. Gregory of Nyssa was fantastic with much contemplation included and new friends. I am also writing another Icon of St. John the Forerunner.I have included a picture (unfinished).

My sabbatical reading list included Mueller's "Sabbath" and Bodo's "Francis, The Journey and the Dream"; rereading Rohr's "The Divine Dance", and I'm close to finishing his "The Universal Christ" which I am enjoying.

I am very grateful for this Sabbatical time the parish has given me and I thank you. I hope it was beneficial for you as well and that in all the turmoil going on around us, we can remind ourselves of why we gather as a parish family. I included Merton's quote above that reminds us of who we are and whose we are as we go forward into God's new creation. Peace and see you soon. Ben+

Continuing the Journey

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Hi All, my 2nd and more formal Iconology class started Monday. Dimitri, the Russian instructor, is easy to take instruction from. When he looks at your icon, at least for mine, he always says-"I have some good news and some bad news."

I have included a progression of my work from "outline and halo of gold on top of clay" to "letting the light come forth". Iconology involves more than writing an icon. It is not just about how good it is but what the icon is saying and how it might draw one in artistically and spiritually. I'm also including a picture of part of the church..

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John the Baptist Icon, adding gold leaf on clay.

John the Baptist Icon, adding gold leaf on clay.


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Iv’e got two class Icons going. This is the beginning of my John the Baptist. My instructor, who is very soft spoken but with a laser wit, wouldn’t let me do a John the Baptist with a severed head. The second icon is of Jesus Christ. It is further along with ink outline and the bole (soft fine reddish-brown clay used as a pigment) has been applied for the halo.

On Sunday, July 28, I start my class with the Prosopon School of Iconology. Yes Iconology. I’m somewhat anxious because I’ve heard that the instructor Demetri, is somewhat particular in his instruction.

Walking, Reading, Painting

Working deeper into my Sabbatical time with a walk, icon writing, and new book.

Walking in Muir Woods. Muir Woods National Monument is part of California’s Golden Gate National Recreation Area, north of San Francisco. It’s known for its towering old-growth redwood trees. Trails wind among the trees to Cathedral Grove and Bohemian Grove, and along Redwood Creek.

Walking in Muir Woods. Muir Woods National Monument is part of California’s Golden Gate National Recreation Area, north of San Francisco. It’s known for its towering old-growth redwood trees. Trails wind among the trees to Cathedral Grove and Bohemian Grove, and along Redwood Creek.

Icon Writing has begun.

Icon Writing has begun.

My latest reading material.

My latest reading material.


After 3 days, I’ve started to wind down. The walk up to the mountain reservoir began my Sabbath.

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One of my parishioners gave me the book Sabbath by Wayne Muller. Who and when I do not remember. As I was leaving for Sabbatical my hand reached out and grabbed it from my bookshelf in my office. This is a wonderful book and the author is thoughtful, kind, and gentle. I commend it to all who are weary and are heavy burdened. It is not a self-help book, it is a mirror into the soul that is seeking refreshment.

Fr. Ben's Sabbatical Q & A

Sabbatical 2019

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Greetings everyone, the time is nigh and I will soon leave on my Sabbatical journey to St. Anselmo in Marin County, California. It is on the northern peninsula above San Francisco. I will be staying on the campus of San Francisco Theological Seminary, a Presbyterian seminary, in a house that a professor there has graciously offered to let me stay for the rest of the summer. 

I will arrive on July 2nd and return on September 3rd. My plans involve Icon writing at St. Gregory of Nyssa Episcopal Church in San Francisco for two Sundays a month and to train with the Prosopon School of Iconography for one whole week, also held at St. Gregory of Nyssa. Please visit this site and watch the video. ( It will give you some insight into why St. Gregory is a good place to delve into Icon writing.

 I plan on primarily worshiping at St. Gregory but may visit other Episcopal churches as well. St. Gregory is a unique community. Most all they do is done around or close to the altar including coffee hour.

Frequently Asked Questions     

What is a sabbatical?

The word sabbatical has its roots in the biblical concept of Sabbath (“to rest” or “to cease”). Sabbath keeping is setting aside time that God consecrates and makes holy. Sabbatical leave is a time for Fr. Ben to shift gears in order to rest, disengage study, reflect, and travel in order to return to minister among us refreshed and renewed in body, mind, and spirit. (It is not a time for routine work, retirement planning, or terminal leave.) Father Ben’s letter of agreement with St. Francis specifies that he may take a sabbatical after six years of service at St. Francis. 2019 will mark Ben’s eighth year with us. Sabbatical is more than a vacation from meetings, budgets, sermons, and people in need. It is a time for Father Ben to receive spiritual nourishment and a change in perspective, to deepen his relationship with God, himself, and his family – a season of spiritual growth. This special time will also be a season of growth for the entire congregation.

Do other clergy go on sabbatical?

Yes. A growing number of congregations are realizing the lasting benefits of providing their clergy with sabbatical leave. Hopefully pastors return refreshed and revitalized and the church often moves into new phases of ministry following a sabbatical leave. Many churches now have regular sabbatical times written into their letter of agreements/job description with their pastors.  Sabbatical time is given in addition to vacation time. Fr. Ben will still have vacation time upon his return.

How long will Father Ben be away?

Father Ben will begin his sabbatical after worship on Sunday, June 30th and return September 3rd, being in the office on September 4th.  There will be a special liturgy of taking sabbatical leave on his last Sunday June 30th and a special liturgy of return on Sunday, September 8th.

What will Fr. Ben be doing during his sabbatical?

Fr. Ben will read about Franciscan Theology, immerse himself in icon writing, reading about Franciscan Theology, resting, having fun, meeting some old friends at the Church Divinity School of the Pacific, and hosting some visitors during his time away.

Who will cover Fr. Ben’s responsibilities while he is away?

St. Francis is blessed to have a wonderful congregation full of faithful individuals with the ability to minister to and with each other in all areas of our common life together. Our Senior Warden, Jeff Hobaugh, who will be the ecclesial authority during Ben’s absence, and Junior Warden, Brittney Kish-Lightsey, and the vestry are capable of handling any situation that requires attention. Our Eucharistic Visitor’s team under the direction of Deacon Pat and the pastoral Care committee chaired by Tammy Pallot will address any pastoral care issues that may arise. The vestry has invited Kim Jackson and John Bolton (from Atlanta); and Shirley Porter, Harriett Simmons, and Gary Abbott (from Macon) to cover the 8 am and 10 am Sunday services. I have also asked the Reverend Bonnie Underwood of All Saints, Warner Robins to cover any pastoral emergencies requiring a priest and to perform any burials that might be scheduled.

Will Fr. Ben be in contact with St. Francis during the sabbatical?

An important part of a sabbatical is to make a complete break from things. In the unlikely event that some extraordinary news must be communicated to Ben, Jeff Hobaugh, the Senior Warden will notify him. Fr. Ben may send pictures from time to time for posting in E-news.

Can I call, text, or send an Email to Fr. Ben if I need him while he is away?

Please do not. The only people who will be in direct contact with Father Ben while he is away will be Arthur and in an emergency, the Senior or Junior Wardens.

What if a question/concern arises or I have a family or personal crisis while Fr. Ben is away?

As always, you can contact the parish office and staff, any vestry member, or the Pastoral Care ministry leaders to answer questions or concerns. They will consult with the Senior and Junior Warden for advice and discernment if a matter of particular concern arises. The church office number is 478-477-4616 and is open Monday through Thursday from 9 am to 1 pm. The church office will be closed Thursday, July 4th, Friday the 5th, and Monday, September 2nd for Labor Day.

Who should I call to plan a special service or to request an addition to the church calendar or have a prayer request?

The church office will continue to be open during the usual summer office hours. Kathryn Kane (Monday and Wednesday) is available to help you arrange dates for special services during the sabbatical. The office volunteers are Isabelle Tanner (Tuesdays, 9am 1 pm) and Tammy Pallot (Thursdays, 9 am to 1pm).

Who is paying for this sabbatical?

Thanks to your generous gifts throughout the years and especially this year, we have been able to budget the cost of having supply priests. St. Francis will continue to pay Fr. Ben’s salary while he is away.

What will be happening at church during the sabbatical?

The sabbatical season is designed to be a time of renewal for Fr. Ben and the church. In keeping with the sabbatical theme, I encourage the congregation to immerse themselves in Franciscan Theology by reading The Journey and the Dream by Murray Bodo, O.F.M.; and by reading or re-reading Richard Rohr’s The Divine Dance and The Universal Christ. They will be on my reading list whilst I am away. I also would like for the Church to have an Icon writing class available to any who would like to participate after I return.

Will Arthur go with Father Ben?

Arthur will take the last week of August to visit and return with Ben to Macon.

How will St. Francis and Father Ben part ways?

On Sunday June 30th, we will have a congregational send-off. Fr. Ben will officiate and preach his last sermon for a while. A liturgy of leaving will conclude the service where Ben and the congregation commit to praying for each other while we are apart, and Fr. Ben will remove his stole as a symbol of leaving the pastoral and sacramental responsibilities into the care of the congregation.

How will we get reacquainted when Ben return?

On Sunday September 8th, Fr. Ben will pick up his stole as a symbol of returning to his pastoral and sacramental duty and will preach. Fr. Ben will celebrate communion as we break bread together around the family table and celebrate coming home.

How can I help make the sabbatical successful for Ben and for the parish?

First, pray. Pray for a significant time of rest and renewal for Ben. Pray for each member of the vestry and church staff that will lead us while Ben is away. Pray for those who will be supplying for us and all the faithful volunteers who will continue the life of the parish. Pray that this season is one of renewal for each member of the congregation and our parish as a whole. Second, participate. Join in the fellowship and worship opportunities that are offered this summer. Volunteer to help support the vestry and staff by volunteering to lead key events. Finally, seek to be present in the moment and enjoy this unique opportunity in the life of our parish.

Sabbatical Schedule:

June 30: Fr. Ben’s last day in the office,

July 2: Ben arrive in St. Anselmo, California

September 4: Father Ben’s first day back in the parish office.

September 8: Re-entry by preaching and presiding


Ben's Sabbatical 2019

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Dear Friends, I will begin a two month sabbatical on July 1st. A Sabbatical is a defined period of time away from one’s normal everyday duties and the time is spent in recreation, reflection and new learning. My sabbatical will be centered on Icon writing and Franciscan Theology in various ways of reflection, such as reading and writing.

 Franciscan theology is a theological mode of operating in the world with the belief that the incarnation was in the in-breaking of God into our human existence because he created us and loves us and that Jesus the messiah died for us because he loves us, not the Belief that God was forced to react to Adam’s sin. This atonement way of thinking restricts God’s freedom and dignity, that our behavior controls God. Through the incarnation the gulf that separates us from God has been bridged through original blessing, not original sin. This is what I want to examine further.

 After seven years of ministry together, I believe it is time to renew the relationship and commitment to the church and its priest. When I think about my summer sabbatical, it is clear to me that it has to be integral to me and to the parish for becoming a place of refreshment in renewal for those already here and for those who will be with us on their journey.

 Questions to explore:

 •How can we become even more immersed in Franciscan Theology at St, Francis?

•How has the incarnation entered into our lives and made a difference?

•How can we make St. Francis a home for Franciscan Theology, a place for the incarnation to break through in people’s lives?

 If you wish to help with my sabbatical this year donations to the Rector’s Travel and Continuing Education restricted accounts will be greatly appreciated. My lodging has been graciously given me by a San Francisco Theology professor (a friend) and her wife who live on campus in San Anselmo. With lodging taken care of, the cost should be no more than $7000.00 for these two months. We do have about $4000 available in the funds now. Thank you very much for this opportunity. Peace. Ben.

Rector's Easter Message


Happy Easter Franciscans!

It was a wonderful Holy Week and I hope you were fed and nourished as much as I was through the love shown by our St. Francis Community.  I want to thank all those (and there were a lot) who gave their time and talent and treasure toward making all of it a joyous occasion. It was good seeing a lot of faces that I had not seen for so long at our Easter services, and also seeing new faces. I hope that they will all come back more often. Of course without any of this, without any of our actions, a joyous occasion would have occurred on Easter morning as it does every morning with the sunlight falling upon an empty tomb and creation praising God. This reminds me of a passage from Thomas Merton:

Sunrise is an event that calls forth solemn music in the very depth of human nature, as if one’s whole being had to attune itself to the cosmos and praise God for the new day, praise God in the name of all the creatures that ever were or ever will be. I look at the rising sun and feel that now upon me falls the responsibility of seeing what all my ancestors have seen, in the Stone Age and even before it, praising God before me….When the sun rises each one us of is summoned by the living and the dead to praise God.”

Again I say thank you to all who participated in any way in our Holy Week and Easter services.

So there is one news item that I need to share with you. I am going on Sabbatical this summer (July and August). I have been offered a house in which to stay on the campus of San Francisco Theological Seminary. I have reached out to an instructor at St. Gregory of Nyssa in San Francisco to assist me in getting back into icon writing which is a wonderful way to pray and meditate. I hope to take a class at one of the seminaries in the area.

I did consider cancelling my sabbatical due to Fr. Joseph’s necessary move to Augusta but I do not know that I will ever get this offer again and since money is always an object, this will be the time to go. I did cut my time short by one month. I have applied for a grant to possibly cover a month next year (with the vestry’s approval) but getting the grant is a long shot.

Before I leave in July I will visit my mom, travel to Cleveland, Ohio to marry Jess Tanner and her soon to be wife Maddy (perform the marriage ceremony might be a better way of putting it), and be Dean of the Diocesan Outdoor Youth Camp in early June. I will be happy to talk about this with anyone wanting to know more. Of course my really big concern with being gone for two months is: how will Arthur take care of himself while I’m gone? Peace to you all.

Christos Anesti! Alithos Anesti!

Christ is Risen! He has Risen indeed!




2017 Annual Report

Greetings Franciscans,

This January began my 6th year as rector of St. Francis Episcopal Church. Including my associate time, I have been with you for about 7 ½ years. When I am asked to describe what this parish is like by colleagues and those seeking a place to become part of, I say you are wonderful, gentle, and forgiving people who will let me go off on tangents and down rabbit holes and then gently bring me back.

This year as you will be able to tell from the theme of our annual meeting, I would like us to focus on the diocesan mission statement, “We challenge ourselves and the world to love like Jesus as we worship joyfully, serve compassionately, and grow spiritually.” So as the rector of this church, I must ask myself and gather from you, how do we think we are we doing?

First, Let’s talk about where we are now against where we were last year. The young adult group has more than doubled in numbers, with three of its members now serving on the vestry and three as chairs of ministries. There are 12 youth consistently coming to church with three more to be added this summer. We were a beta testing site for The Beloved Community using the newly developed Dismantling Racism curriculum for youth by the diocese and the kids loved it.

We are still very much involved in Weekend Lunch, highly respected by Sr. Theresa at Daybreak because of our member’s work there and we still support Loaves and Fishes, Daybreak , Macon Volunteer Clinic, Haitian Hope Inc., and Path to Shine. We also supported ERD (Episcopal Relief and Development) this year in responding to the hurricane relief drive.

As far as worship, the 6 pm Sunday service has doubled, still small, but is growing. Morning Prayer is growing in numbers. The main services and the early Sunday service are holding their own and we still have visitors every Sunday. The evangelism committee will guide us in being even more welcoming.

We began the year with a $38K deficit and through your generosity, we ended the year with a small surplus. We have a new roof on every building on this campus. The vestry has not retreated from wanting to build a new building, after the diocese said we couldn’t borrow, but was instead bolstered to want to have a new dialogue with the diocese on borrowing because we ARE going to build!

Ecumenically we have celebrated Advent with St. Peter Claver and shared youth group time with the Presbyterians. We have strengthened our bonds in our interfaith community as well by hosting the Iman of the local mosque and hosting “The Footsteps of Abraham”, an interfaith clergy group who meet to celebrate what we have in common and to understand our differences. We have hosted the Women's Interfaith Alliance of Central Georgia as well. I see nothing on the horizon that won’t allow us to do even more in Worshiping joyfully, Serving compassionately, and Growing spiritually in 2018. God has been good and Faithful to God’s people who share in the community of St. Francis in Macon.

Peace, Ben+