As I announced a few weeks ago, this summer, I’ll be taking a sabbatical. My last Sunday will be Mother’s Day, the Seventh Sunday of Easter, May 13, 2018; and my first Sunday back will be September 16, 2018. I’m indebted to my colleague, the Rev. Tim Schenck in Hingham, Mass., whose sabbatical announcement I’m now shamelessly stealing! Sabbatical means I’ll be hitting the pause button on parish ministry. I’m excited about this upcoming time of spiritual renewal and thought I’d share a bit about what I’ll be doing while I’m away.
What is a clergy sabbatical?
Unless you’re in a profession that routinely offers sabbaticals (and I wish every industry did), you may not know why clergy are offered the opportunity to take time away. The Diocese of San Diego recommends that full-time clergy take sabbaticals every six or seven years. They view them as “an opportunity for a time of sabbath [hence the word sabbatical], for a renewal of spirit and a reaffirmation of life with God.” I’ve been ordained since 2001, and never have taken a sabbatical. Being a priest requires full engagement with heart, mind, body, and soul and renewal is critical to effective and long-term ministry. At various points in his own ministry, even Jesus took time away for prayer and reflection. He returned with renewed energy and perspective and that is the hope for a clergy sabbatical.
What is a sabbatical for?
The purpose of a sabbatical is creative and spiritual regeneration. My own objective is primarily to disengage so I can strengthen my perspective on ministry and the people I’m called to serve, break unhealthy physical, behavioral, and spiritual ruts I get into, and renew my sense of wonder and creativity in vocation, and recover playfulness in approaching a Gospel that’s joyful to the core.
Who’s paying for this?
Under the terms of my letter of agreement with St. Margaret’s, I accrue two weeks of paid sabbatical time per year, for a maximum of 12 weeks. I’m covering the remaining time with unused vacation time. The Vestry itself gave me a cash gift to help offset the cost of transportation and lodging to confer with clergy colleagues, and I’m grateful for their personal generosity.
What will you be doing?
Many clergy use the time simply for disengagement and rest. Others engage ambitious spiritual or educational projects. Tim is writing a book on his sabbatical, but he’s smarter than I am.
My sabbatical will be broken into parts. Becky and will be celebrating 25 years of marriage on April 24 of this year, and we’ll mark the occasion by taking an Alaska cruise from Anchorage to Vancouver aboard the Island Princess, traveling with our friends Bob and Julie Brady from Palos Park, Illinois. Their 25th anniversary is very close to ours, and we celebrated our 20th anniversary together in New York. June will be a combination of rest and home projects, likely adding a trip north to visit our daughter Nell in Salem, Oregon.
In July, I’ll begin a cross-country driving trip to visit colleagues and old friends. The visits will include a combination of professional consultation about specific areas of ministry and congregational development, and nurturing some long-held friendships I tend to neglect over time, always intending to devote more energy, but never getting around to it. Becky will fly out for parts of that journey, but not all of it. On some Sundays I’ll be in church learning from the work of my colleagues, and on others I’ll be sleeping in.
How do we reach you?
You don’t. That’s the point. Becky, Deb, and the wardens can reach me in case of emergency.
Who’s Acting Rector during your absence?
The same person who’s Acting Rector when I’m sleeping, at a movie, on vacation, or otherwise not immediately available: I am. We have a great staff and Vestry leadership team, and they know and do their jobs well. I’ll leave behind a small number of standing directions, and ask that they confer with each other regularly. The Rev. Kathleen Kelly, retired rector of Good Shepherd in Hemet, an attorney, a member of the Palm Desert City Council and the Standing Committee of the Diocese of San Diego will be available for most of the summer to act as a liaison to the Diocese, and an advisor well versed in San Diego policies and procedures. I trust our staff and Vestry leaders to manage the parish effectively. In the extremely unlikely event that something comes up that only the Rector can decide, they’ll call me.
I will pray for you daily while I’m away, and look forward to returning refreshed and emboldened for continuing as your Rector. By the time I return, Deb Seles will be eager to take vacation herself, and I’ll debrief with her before she goes. I’m grateful for the kindness and support I’ve received from parishioners as the sabbatical approaches.
Much love. See you in September. Lane†