Dear Christ Church,
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 might have heard, I will be taking my second sabbatical after twenty-one years of pastoral ministry (sixteen at Christ Church). Christine and I are very grateful that when we came to serve this community in 2006 we stepped into a church culture and practice 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 clergy, staff, and Vestry, without whom a sabbatical would be impossible.
This sabbatical, from March 12 until October, is part of a rhythm of pastoral ministry that will occur, God-willing, in another seven, fourteen, and twenty-one years. Thankfully, this is not a pastoral “leave of absence” under desperate circumstances; it is simply part of a planned rhythm of sustaining pastoral excellence.
A colleague and former coach of mine wrote this excellent reflection on the Sabbath year, where he writes, “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 provide fallow ground. Sabbaticals are a time to get grounded in 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, this letter from the Vestry, 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.
Christ Church, you are a remarkable people. I am astounded by the privilege of worshipping with you, serving among you, and learning from you. I hold you with great affection. 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; together, we are a people of changed lives in the heart of our city, mending our world for the praise of God’s glory.