Sabbatical Postcard #3: “What’s a Week-End?”

How many of you out there are Downton Abbey Fans — fans of the period piece BBC drama about the Crawley family? A very upstairs|downstairs kind of affair, it ran for six seasons and recently there was a movie! I am not sure I watched it all but I vividly recall a scene in the second episode of the very first season: What’s a week-end?

The formidable Maggie Smith, Lady Grantham, followed by her landed gentry family — all dressed in formal evening ware — file past the servants into the drawing room for dinner. A conversation ensues about suitable occupations for the newly arrived Matthew — a trained lawyer prior to his inheritance – he plans on joining a law firm in Ripon. Aghast, the Lord or the Manor replies, “A job!!! I planned on including you in the running of the estate!” “Don’t worry,” Matthew responds, “there’s plenty of hours in a day and there is always the weekend.” Maggie Smith sniffs and looks down her nose and remarks: “What’s a week-end?”

(I can’t quite do this marvelous scene justice, you can watch it here! “Downton Abbey: Season 1: Episode 2: What’s a Weekend?”)

Lady Grantham’s question drips with privilege and wealth and crusty tradition — Gilded Age style.

But as for me, on sabbatical in 2023, it’s a very good question! First, let me back up a little. I have been a priest for nearly thirty years and have loved each and every one of those years. Ministry is rich in all kinds of ways. You work with all ages and stages of humanity. You get to be present at life’s greatest joys, as well as, at life’s greatest sorrows. You get to change hats a lot: pastor, preacher, teacher, and more. Sundays come round and round but two days are never the same. One of the last generalist professions, ministry is never boring!

When anyone approaches me about entering this profession, I take them seriously. Tell me about what you would like to do, I say. Tell me why you are drawn to this line of work. It’s not very lucrative, you know, and the hours are terrible. And you will have to work weekends for the rest of your life. No matter your relationship with Jesus or the truth of your spiritual journey, do you want to work weekends for the REST OF YOUR LIFE? Go away and think and pray about that, I encourage them. If your answer is yes, come back and talk to me!

Sundays come round and round and there is a sacred rhythm to the liturgical year. The seasons change color and tempo and mood, as we move from Advent blue to the long green season of Ordinary Time. And as the Associate for Worship, Emmanuel’s parish liturgist, I do confess that while on sabbatical, there is a part of me that misses Sundays at church. But in all honesty, I do not miss it as much as you might think.

This three months away has afforded me the time to set my work aside. So, it may seem counterintuitive for a priest on vacation, but mostly I am worshipping at St. Mattress in the Springs or at the Church of the Holy Comforter. God is everywhere you know! So, I am sleeping in on the sabbath. And even better I am getting to travel on weekends like the rest of the world does! Let me share a bit of my itinerary!

Weekend in Charlottesville, VA, January 19-22: A stay at the Oakhurst Inn across the street from the UVA lawn. Breakfast at the cafe with a very good friend. A winter swim in the outdoor heated pool. Used book hunting on the Downtown Mall. A trip to Monticello where I spent too much money on teak-foldable-library-steps and had an argument with Thomas Jefferson (a re-enactor)!

Weekend in Milton, DE, January 27-31: A trip across the Chesapeake Bay Bridge (which is TERIFYING, no matter how many times I have driven over it!) to visit my “baby brother” Joseph and his delightful husband John. The Dogfish Brewery is right behind their house! A hop, skip and a jump from Rehoboth, we always make a trip to the BrowseAbout Book Store just off the boardwalk. (President Biden’s favorite bookstore!) Joseph and I also love hunting vintage treasures at local antique shops. We often get dinner in Lewes, and if the weather is in our favor, we hop the ferry across the Delaware Bay to Cape May, NJ.

Weekend in Winston-Salem, NC, February 15-19: A long overdue trip to visit my youngest Jacob and family: Loucie and the “Z’s”: Zhen, Zakai, Zell & Zelda — who is almost three! Their house is full of happy chaos and it’s a lot of fun. So, to recharge my batteries, I stay nearby at a little downtown hotel with an indoor pool, a coffee shop, a bookstore, and a brewery on the same block.

Are you picking up on a theme here? Family. Friends. Books. Beer. Baristas. Yep!

Thank you, Emmanuel for all of the weekends above. There are more trips to come: a combo dog/house sitting situation in D.C.; and a pilgrimage to Scotland and England. More on all of that later!

Over and out!

Soli Deo Gratia,


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The Rev. Joani Peacock, Editor for Emmanuel Voices: A Parish Blog

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