Sabbatical: A Time of Rest, A Time for Renewal, A Time to Reconnect
Next month, beginning August 1st-November 24th, I will start my sabbatical. Some may ask what this means. Am I “just taking time off” or “going on an extended vacation.” The short answer is no. Sabbatical Leave for pastors is a planned time of intensive enhancement for ministry and mission. Sabbatical Leave follows precedents in the academic community and among a growing number of private sector groups. This “extended time” is qualitatively different from “vacation’ or “days off.” It is an opportunity for the Pastor to strategically disengage from regular and normal tasks so that ministry and mission may be viewed from a new perspective because of a planned time of focus. Sabbatical is a rest from work, or a break; it is a time of renewal. It is a common practice among churches, which is why it is included in the basic terms of call for pastors in the Presbytery.
The Scriptures invite us to consider that Sabbath and rest and renewal and seasons “apart” are good gifts of God.
And on the seventh day God finished the work God had done, and God rested on the seventh day from all the work which he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and hallowed it, because on it God rested from all the work which he had done in creation. ~Genesis 2:2-3
And early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus arose and went out and departed to a lonely place, and was praying there. ~Mark 1:35
And immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go ahead to the other side to Bethsaida, while he himself was sending the multitude away. And after bidding them farewell, Jesus departed to the mountain to pray. ~Mark 6:45-46
Come to me, all you that are weary and carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. ~Matthew 11:28
If you remember last year, the session and I applied and were awarded a grant through the Lilly Foundation, which is helping to fund and shape the work, rest and renewal of my sabbatical, as well as provide the funds needed to have pastoral care and coverage during my time away. For 2018, only 146 grants were awarded monies through the foundation throughout the country. For our church to receive over $32,000 is a true blessing and gift to celebrate! The grant recognizes the tremendous amount of energy, time and leadership that pastors invest in their congregations. “Lilly Endowment intends for this program to enable pastors to live for a while at a different pace and in a new environment, in Sabbath time and space,” said Dr. Christopher L. Coble, the Endowment’s vice president for religion. “We can think of no better way to honor these hardworking, faithful men and women than to help them experience personal growth and spiritual renewal in ways that they themselves design and find meaningful. We regularly hear that these renewal experiences are transformative for pastors, their families and their congregations.”
In my application I was asked to provide a theme for the sabbatical. I shared with the foundation, a quote from A.P.J. Abdul Kalam. He wrote, “When learning is purposeful, creativity blossoms. When creativity blossoms, thinking emanates. When thinking emanates, knowledge is fully lit. When knowledge is lit, economy flourishes.” With this time of sabbatical and renewal, my hope is to engage in purposeful learning through travel, creative arts, reading and reflecting of scripture to bring new life and creativity worship and worship planning. I hope that my understanding of the Creator and how God is present in the world will become more realized, spurring more energy into sharing and teaching the Gospel to you and to the community.
Many of you have asked what I am doing and so this article serves to answer some of those questions, as well as what happens while I am gone.
WHILE I AM AWAY I WILL:
- Attend the National Conference for Biblical Storytellers in Dayton, OH, learning about the art and practice of Biblical storytelling and how this can enhance and engaged the creative worship experience.
- Travel with Dave to the Pacific Northwest, to see God in Creation. I hope to be inspired by God's creation of nature (including, yes some salmon fishing) and the food of the region, reminding me of God's goodness as well as nurture our relationship together.
- Spend 2 weeks in Montreat, NC taking art classes and attending the fall craft week. These two opportunities would provide a community to inspire me in more intentional and creative worship ,teaching me to use multiple intelligences to engage God in worship and my own personal creativity
- Travel to Eastern Europe with my mom on a small group tour. We will go to places in Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, Austria, the Czech Republic and Germany to visit concentration camps and cities like Warsaw who underwent restoration and reformation after the iron curtain fell. I hope to be inspired to create liturgy used in lament, healing, reconciliation, and interfaith collaboration.
- Spend time in the creative Word. One of my goals in the next phase in my ministry is to be more intentional in my liturgy and worship crafting. I want to be inspired by the poetry from people like Wendell Berry, Jan Richardson, Rupi Kaur, and Mary Oliver. While on sabbatical, I want to spend time planning worship as thematic units and find ways to represent those themes in the liturgy, visually in the worship space, in the narrative Word, and in the music of the church. I would like to use my renewed energy to begin using the Narrative Lectionary, and my hope is that during the Sabbatical I can begin reading, planning and dreaming themes for liturgy beginning in the Advent year in 2018 and beyond.
- Take time to read books on my Waiting-to-Read list, some fun, some geared more towards life in ministry, including: Making a Mess and Meeting God, Speaking to Silence, Prayers for a Privileged People, The Art of Curating Worship, Searching for Sunday, The Book of a Thousand Prayers, Spaces for Spirit: Adorning the Church, Walking on Water, Big Magic, Of Mess and Moxie.
- Spend time on Walks with our animals, in our garden and by the ocean with friends.
- Welcome other yet to be known activities that will refresh and renew me for ministry.
HILE I AM AWAY:
I feel better than ever about the life of Cann and trust that you will be in the good hands of our more than capable Session, Volunteers, Staff and Pastors. While I am gone:
- Sam Jones will be preaching and presiding over Communion in worship August 5th
- The Reverend Aleta Ash will be joining you in worship and caring for the congregation August 12th - 26th, and November 11th. A welcome to Cann pot-luck lunch for Aleta will be after worship on August 12th.
- The Reverend Moffett Churn will be joining you in worship, moderating the session and caring for the congregation September 2nd - November 18th. A welcome to Cann pot-luck lunch will be after worship for Moffett on September 2nd.
- Both Aleta and Moffett will be coming into town Saturday evening and leaving sometime on Monday each week and are available to pastoral visits (if you are home bound, hospitalized, or need pastoral care). Contact the church office or Gus Smith to arrange a visit from them.
- Local pastors (including Rev. Thomas Wilson, Rev. Don Morris (Blackwell Memorial), Rev. Paul Batson (First Baptist), and Rev. Chip Broadfoot (Christ Episcopal will be available if there is a need for a pastoral visit the rest of the week. Contact the church office to arrange a visit from them.
- Session will continue to meet and do the business of the church. Your Elder shepherds will be available if you have any concerns, illnesses or needs. Committees will continue to meet and function and provide for the work, fellowship and outreach of the church. Look to the bulletin and newsletters for announcements of upcoming activities. Also, look forward to seeing some opportunities for you to engage in some creative arts and worship (along the same lines as I am doing while on sabbatical)!
- Dr. Rachel Gragson will continue to lead the congregation in the music and worship of the church. The choir will return in September refreshed and renewed from their summer break.
- Ms. Rebecca Rawls will continue to provide Sunday School for the children of our congregation. They will continue their summer curriculum through August and then begin their Fall curriculum in September. She will be available if you have any questions or concerns relating to the education of our young disciples.
- Ms. Angela Banks will continue in her work as the Administrative & Communications Assistant. She will be helping to ensure that the day to day work of the office is running smoothly, that information is communicated clearly, and directing you to someone if you need anything. As she works to assimilate to the life of Cann and works to fulfill this new position, please get to know her and help her get to know the ins and outs of the church.
On my final Sunday in worship before I begin the sabbatical (July 29th), we will participate in a liturgy together, praying for one another, and blessing one another. At the end of worship, I will take off and leave my stole on the communion table, a symbol of my pastoral office. It will remain on the table alongside a candle during my sabbatical as a reminder for you to pray for me during this time of renewal. Following worship, we will fellowship together with a brunch.
While I am away, I will not be answering my phone, emails, or Facebook messages as a way to disengage and recharge. If you have a concern, please call your Elder or the church office so that you can be in touch with a pastor or the right person. I will not be attending worship at Cann during this time, but you may see me in the store or around town. Feel free to say hi, but don’t feel obligated to fill me in on church life.
I will see you back in worship, putting on my stole once again, on November 25th, Christ the King Sunday, where we will celebrate the ending of the liturgical year together through scripture and song.
Beginning in Advent, we will start the Narrative Lectionary (a 4-year reading cycle for more info go here-> http://www.workingpreacher.org/narrative_faqs.aspx), which follows the sweep of the biblical story, from Creation through the early Christian church. The texts show the breadth and variety of voices within Scripture. They invite people to hear the stories of Abraham and Sarah, Moses and the prophets, Jesus, and Paul. Listening to the many different voices within Scripture enriches preaching and the life of faith. I hope to have some new and inspiring liturgy and possibly more visual arts for our worship space as products from my sabbatical renewal.
I am grateful for this opportunity; grateful and excited to see where God will lead us when I return from this time of rest and renewal; and grateful for each and every one of you and what you do to further God’s kingdom here in Elizabeth City
I leave you all with my Parting Prayer for this time of rest and renewal:
Lord God Almighty, I commit myself to your care and safekeeping during this Sabbatical time. Let my walk be worthy of you, pleasing you each day. Strengthen me and release your righteousness, peace, and joy in my life. Surround Cann Memorial with your loving care and bring us back together in safety, renewed by the Spirit. Give all of us the spirit of wisdom and guide us during our time apart. Strengthen the church with power by your Spirit and fill its members with grace and love. Help us to see that we are one body in you. Direct us with your glorious favor and with your continual help; that all we do may be to your glory, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.