Pastor takes short sabbatical for 'spiritual renewal'


SUMMER IS NEARLY over, the demands of autumn are on us, and some are more ready than others for the hectic schedules ahead.

One such neighbor is the Rev. Keith DeBord, pastor of Grace United Church of Christ in Taneytown. We can all take a lesson from the pastor, who took a five-week reprieve from his clerical duties this summer for rest and spiritual rejuvenation.

"It was rather a brief sabbatical," DeBord said. "But it served the purpose. It was a spiritual renewal through prayer, worship, study, reflection and solitude. And it was a time for rest."

DeBord divided his time between Princeton University, Lancaster Theological Seminary and a beach vacation with his family -- wife, Meredith, a former Spanish teacher at Francis Scott Key High School, and children Nicholas, Kaitlin and Jonathan.

"Pastors are supposed to study and read continually, but often, getting through the course of the week takes all the time," he said. "The sabbatical gave me time to catch up on my reading -- and not just reading for sermon preparation. At Princeton, we had a very intense week of Bible study, worship -- very uplifting, spiritual worship by creative leaders -- that was very moving. And it was a time of fellowship with other clergy."

A major topic among the pastors at the Princeton retreat was the crisis of the mainline church today, and how to take the church into the 21st century.

"The paradigms are changing," said DeBord. "And the question was, how do we, as a clergy, lead in the 21st century, with its complexity and diversity?"

DeBord and other pastors from around the country pondered the topic through discussion, prayer, chapel time, solitude and strolling through the campus.

From Princeton, DeBord went to his church's seminary, Lancaster Theological Seminary, in Lancaster County, Pa. DeBord spent an afternoon soaking up the serenity of the Amish countryside.

"I sat under a tree and read," he said. "That was a powerful day."

DeBord said he is grateful to his church, which offers time for rest and recovery from the demands of pastoring. He has been pastor there five years.

"Grace Church and I are a good match for each other," he said. "They're a great group to grow with, and have been very accepting of me and my family. That means a lot to a minister."

Crab and chicken feed

Taneytown Rod and Gun Club is holding a crab and chicken feed at 4 p.m. Sept. 11 at 12380 Shoemaker Road. Tickets for $18 must be purchased by today.

Information: 410-751-1685.

Spiritual weight loss

Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church in Taneytown is presenting an alternative weight-loss program this fall.

"Exodus out of Egypt" offers participants a chance to replace devotion to food with devotion to God. The 12-week program provides a spiritual alternative to overeating.

Consisting of weekly video lessons with supplemental audiotapes and student guides, the workshop is open to men and women.

Information: Susan Douglas, 410-751-0529 or Trinity Lutheran Church, 410-751-1203.

A free orientation will be held at 7 p.m. Sept. 13 at the church, 38 W. Baltimore St.

Save the date

There I was in a suburban department store, cruising the sales for swimsuits and sunglasses last week, when I spotted a display of Christmas items. Not the expected back-to-school or Halloween stuff, but Christmas decorations and greeting cards.

As much as I resented this leap into the holiday future, it reminded me of a tradition in northwest Carroll -- the Historic Uniontown Candlelight Tour on Dec. 12. Save the date for this event, which includes holiday music, tours of private homes, personal retreats and a country inn, a peak into churches, an old schoolhouse and bank, and buggy rides.

Information: 410-857-1567.

Judy Reilly's Northwest neighborhood column appears each Thursday in the Carroll County edition of The Sun.

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