By Preston Knight - firstname.lastname@example.org
WOODSTOCK -- The Rev. Lisa Webb is about to hand the keys to her house, her car and her church to a man she has never met and who is promising to deliver the Loch Ness Monster to the area.
As part of a pastoral exchange program through Woodstock Presbyterian Church, Webb is scheduled to leave for Scotland on Monday and be replaced by the Rev. Jim Cowie, a minister from Elgin, Scotland, for the month of July. The exchange is basically a swap of lives, as the pastors will be living in the other's house and commuting in that person's vehicle.
"For me, being in Scotland, a place of my own personal heritage and being Presbyterian, learning how they do church is going to be a big culture shock," Webb said. "And it'll be good for Jim to be here."
Cowie is scheduled to arrive July 6 and stay until July 27. Webb, whose trip is part of her three-month sabbatical that the Presbyterian Church in America encourages after six years in the ministry, will come back in September and also travel to Ireland, England and Wales while she is away.
In an e-mail, Cowie, who pastors two churches, said he and his wife spent a school year in Minnesota while in seminary in the 1970s, and then returned there with family in the 1990s. They then spent the summer in California three years ago.
"Each State is different and so we look forward to the Virginia experience," Cowie wrote.
He said they are looking forward to adding to their knowledge of Civil War sites and hope to hear local bluegrass music.
On Sunday mornings, Cowie will be put to work. Webb said there will be some adjustment, as American services differ from those in Scotland in that worship here is more responsive, with more congregational participation. But Cowie should be fine with the workload -- he gives five sermons a week at home, which she will now do.
"He's going to enjoy his time," Webb said. "He'll get some good rest."
Cowie wrote that his final Sunday will be a "Scottish service."
"Our church services do not usually have responsive worship and I'm sure that as we enjoy the Woodstock experience, the folk there will enjoy a little taste of Scotland whilst we're there," he said. "By the way, if there are any young folk attending then they can expect a visit from 'Nessie' the Loch Ness Monster, who wants to come over with us (though he'll have to swim there). It'll be a pity for Pastor Lisa that she won't see him here on her trip."
Webb thinks she will get along fine without. The idea behind sending Presbyterian pastors abroad is to prevent "burnout" and keep ministers in their churches, allowing their creative juices to get going, she said. Worshippers will benefit, too, by being exposed to a fresh set of eyes offering a different cultural experience, Webb added.
"It'll be a neat experience," she said.