In his wonderful little book, The Sabbath, Rabbi Abraham Heschel writes about the sacredness of time, “For where shall the likeness of God be found? There is no quality that space has in common with the essence of God. There is not enough freedom on the top of the mountain; there is not enough glory in the silence of the sea. Yet the likeness of God can be found in time, which is eternity in disguise.”
As you probably have heard by now, we will be taking our first sabbatical after 12 years of ministry. Christine and I are very grateful that when we came to serve this community in 2006 we stepped into a church culture and policy that valued the sacredness of time and the practice of clergy sabbaticals. We are also deeply thankful for God’s provision of excellent and trustworthy associate staff, clergy and Vestry, without which a sabbatical would be impossible.
This sabbatical, which will last from sometime in March to sometime in July of 2014 (details TBD), is part of a rhythm of pastoral ministry that will likely occur in another 7, 14 and 21 years. It is important to be clear that this is not a pastoral “leave of absence” under desperate circumstances, nor part of a larger plan that culminates in my departure from Christ Church. It is simply part of a planned rhythm of sustaining pastoral excellence.
My friend, colleague and mentor Peter Roebelen shares the following quote in a good biblical reflection on the Sabbath year: “Walter Brueggemann suggests that ‘the fallowness necessary to the land, which leads directly to the Sabbath principle, invites pondering of a whole way of existence that is infused with listening, waiting, and receiving.'” Yes, sabbaticals are part of “a whole way of existence,” which for the pastoral vocation provides the fallow conditions required for deep listening, waiting and receiving. This will be accomplished by stepping, for a short season, into a new environment, with new rhythms and a plan for spiritual, vocational, intellectual and family renewal.
For more learning about sabbaticals in general and mine in particular, you can read the article linked above and this FAQ. As we get closer to the date, of course, we will be providing more information about our sabbatical plans (still in formation) and how Christ Church will operate during the sabbatical. Christine and I covet your prayers both in our preparations and in the sabbatical itself. In the meantime, our mission at Christ Church continues and will remain unbroken, to build a community of fully devoted followers of Christ with a heart for the city and beyond, to the glory of God!