Greetings in the name of Our Lord & Savior Jesus Christ,
Over the past few weeks and months I have written about my upcoming sabbatical. Writing about its history, where the practice originated, why it's important, what I am going to do during my time and a few other things.
This week I want to share with you some insights about how the sabbatical experience will refresh, renew and re-center, not just me, but hopefully all of us.
A sabbatical is an important part of maintaining one's focus, commitment, passion, and skill for ministry. One priest I deeply respect writes, "The most significant learning for me during each of my sabbatical experiences involves the importance of being able to step back from the day-to-day work of parish ministry. In the time away, I find myself experiencing tremendous renewal, leaving me eager to return to the parish. The benefit to the congregation is one that finds the clergy of the parish feeling renewed, rather than burdened or worn out by the stresses and demands of parish ministry."
I have been in parish ministry now eight years and I have been at All Saints for four. The Alban Institute has done numerous studies and has concluded that clergy and lay professional leaders tend to burn out after 4 to 7 years. It used to be that the priest changed churches more often and used that opportunity to retool and refocus their skills and spirit in a new congregation. In more mainline congregations, that offer sabbatical, the average tenure is often more than 12 years.
Being in ministry for eight years without a sabbatical, I have discovered that over the last six months life has been more challenging. In that time I have felt my own spiritual practices changing and not for the good. We have started new programs, we have a number of individuals and families who have been dealing with stresses, crises, and death. As your priest, I love you all. So when you are hurting, I hurt as well. When you are carrying a burden, I carry a piece of it as well. It is the nature of pastoral work. I enjoy what I do and I love being with you here at All Saints. I don't want to burn out. I would like to stay here as long as you will have me, and this sabbatical will help me with my own spiritual practices and revision my ministry among you.
David Ellingson describes sabbatical as "a time to relearn and rehearse that critical capacity to reflect, which transforms dreams into new visions of ministry and vocation." "Just like soil," he writes, "We humans need time to lie fallow. We require time to receive rather than give, to get input rather than give output, to carefully nurture and cultivate our lives so that the soil of our spirit might be rid of weeds and have an opportunity to receive nourishment." A sabbatical is a life changing and soul changing time when perspective and the Holy Spirit can come together.
Travel is one of the keys for sabbaticals. It disconnects us from home and gives us new perspectives... What happens with travel... is that we connect and find a place to wander with God. Travel is a real part of making pilgrimages and a necessary ingredient for the revitalization of our souls.
So I will hike, climb, watch, listen, pray, photograph, read and write as I visit the sacred places that bring rest and renewal to my soul. Others will join me along the way but because they are not on sabbatical, the work of revitalization, renewal, and refocusing will be mine alone. I ask for your prayers.
When I return I will spend some time catching up on all the details of things that don't take care of themselves when one is away, and then we will begin to get ready for our next season of our ministry together. Someone far wiser than me mentioned that those receiving sabbaticals have the responsibility to "treat them as a precious gift given by a loving congregation. A sabbatical is not a vacation, nor is it time away as much as it is ministry - ministry of the congregation to its clergy so that we may be all that God calls us to be."
Believe me when I say this, this sabbatical is one of the greatest gifts anyone or any group of people have ever given me. I am so very grateful that I will be able to lie fallow with Scripture, and prayer time, the beauty of creation that will help me see God's people, God's creatures, and the reach of God's kingdom with new eyes. Thank you!
In closing, it is my hope that my intentional focus on "Sabbatical" or "Sabbath" sets a good model for each of you and the entire congregation as a whole. By emphasizing the importance of incorporating Sabbath keeping, rest and renewal, into the rhythms of life it is my hope that we all will return renewed and refreshed.
I pray that all of us invests in this time and are able to grow and explore new opportunities and responsibilities. It is my dream that God energizes all of us and reveals new and exciting opportunities to grow, minister and love and serve those in our midst.
See ya Sunday at Rankin Lake!
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