As I prepare for my sabbatical, which begins Monday, May 14 and ends the week of July 23, I want to share with you some thoughts and ways you can be praying for Claudia and me.
First, the Bible verse that resonates with me is I Peter 5:10 “… The God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen and establish you. To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen”
Second, what is a sabbatical? As I have explained before, in our tradition, clergy take a sabbatical time of 2 to 3 months every seven years for retreat, renewal, restoration, rest etc. In 30 years of ministry I have never been able to take a sabbatical since we moved, more or less, every seven years. Last fall, the Board of Stewards offered me a sabbatical time during the summer for the purposes listed in the Bible verse above. This also gives me needed time of prayer and reflection as we prepare to move to our new property later in 2018.
Sabbatical done well is a time for the church to give clergy a chance to get off the front lines of full-time ministry and all of his demands. It is not primarily a time for vacation but a time to stop, reflect on the deep questions we have in our hearts, be restored and renewed. I do believe we are living out God’s call on our lives. We hope that we are stewarding his gifts well. We both want to grow more in our love with Jesus.
During sabbatical time there will be a regular rhythm of daily prayer, one day silent retreats at different times, reading and reflecting, coaching and counseling. Good coaching will know how to ask the penetrating questions that help us to examine our hearts with honesty. Coaching is the art of drawing out what God has deposited in our hearts and souls and bring it to the surface of our thoughts. Fortunately, we both have a relationship with a coach over 10 years. Claudia and I will take some time away for a marriage retreat as well as a one-week family vacation at the end of May with all of our kids and grand kids.
We both want you to know how much we love you and appreciate you. We do not plan to be out of contact with you all during this time. We will draw appropriate boundaries but know that there will be times to remain in contact with you to update, etc.
This last year has been interesting. It has been hard in some ways and yet very fruitful. Obviously, the death of our son-in-law was a major family blow. Through your prayers and support we are working through that. At the same time our family welcomed a daughter-in-law and a new granddaughter. In addition to family matters, much time and prayer has been preparing for the move downtown. It is exciting and takes a lot of energy and foresight to help us all be ready for this move. It is a significant movement of God. Many churches make plans and move but usually not downtown. There is excitement, anticipation and curiosity about the new building and our new neighbors.
Many have asked about how they can pray for this sabbatical. Here it is from the Book of Common Prayer page 832:
O God of peace, who has taught us that in returning and rest we shall be saved, in quietness and in confidence shall be our strength: by the mind of your spirit lift us, we pray you, to your presence, where we may be still and know that you are God; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen