Today (October 15th) marks the fifth anniversary of my serving as your pastor. That means we have travelled through half a decade together. We’ve worshipped, prayed, sang, celebrated life (both new and ending), Bible studied, laughed, cried, broke bread (in fellowship and at the Table of Christ) Zoomed, served one another and the community, welcomed new members and said farewell to those who have moved on, and we are making our way through a pandemic. What a journey this is!
According to my Terms of Call (contract) and our policies, I am eligible to take sabbatical leave for up to three months now that I have completed five years with you. I will be taking that leave beginning May 23 through August 22, 2022. The council will be making arrangements for worship leadership and pastoral coverage during that time.
AND…. There’s more!
We will be receiving a Clergy Renewal Grant offered through the Lilly Endowment’s National Clergy Renewal Program at Christian Theological Seminary! The grant will fund all of my sabbatical activities as well as the cost of pastoral coverage during my time away. The full official press announcement is below but I wanted to share some of my own thoughts and clear up some rumors that are floating around.
First the rumors:
I am not resigning.
I will not be gone for an entire year. Our sabbaticals are for three months.
We will not be expecting the pastor of Christ UMC to pick up more responsibilities since we will be hiring a sabbatical supply pastor. (If you hear of any other rumors rolling around, please check with me before passing them along and encourage the person you heard them from to be in touch with me so we can keep rumor-anxiety out of the air.)
Now, my thoughts:
Sabbaticals, in and of themselves, are tremendous gifts to both pastors and congregations. Studies have found that pastors who regularly take time off, including extended periods of time for sabbatical, experience less burn-out, serve their congregations with more energy and creativity. They are less likely to be involved in misconduct or breaches of ethics. Congregations who allow for sabbatical leave for their pastors are also found to have stronger lay leadership.
Although I LOVE being with you and serving as your pastor, I am so looking forward to this time away. Greg and I have a variety of experiences planned for our time of renewal. I’ll be sharing more details in the months to come but basically, we’ll be exploring some National Parks, strengthening some horseback riding and handling skills, and spending time with family in the place of our ancestors while learning more about those who lived there before we did. The entire time is wrapped up under a theme of “The Way Home.” The theme is based on a Celtic thought of “The Way” as a journey to discover one’s true self and the reality that, in coming to Montana, I have returned “home” to the western landscape.
I am so very grateful for both the sabbatical time away and the funds that will help Greg and I engage in three months of renewal.