Why a sabbatical?
The word sabbatical has its roots in the Biblical concept of Sabbath (“to rest” or “to cease”). Sabbath keeping is setting aside time that God consecrates and makes holy. Sabbatical is a time for Sally to shift gears, to experience a change in perspective, to receive spiritual nourishment, and to deepen her relationship with God, herself, and her family. Sabbath includes elements of rest, disengagement, study, exploration, reflection and prayer.
Although some components of a sabbatical may sound a bit like vacation, a sabbatical is not a vacation from the church. This sabbatical is an opportunity for the pastor to reconnect with parts of her life that are important, such as her sense of call, her vocation, and the roots of her spiritual journey. Part of sabbatical is stepping away from the professional side of religious life and spending time focusing on the pastor’s personal life of faith. It is a time for spiritual growth and for renewal of body, mind and spirit. It is time away to reflect on the balance in a pastor’s life, recognizing that with a pastor’s schedule and responsibilities, life can get out of balance.
The intent of the sabbatical is that Sally will return to the congregation refreshed and renewed, ready to move forward into the next season of our ministry together.
Are sabbaticals for clergy common?
Although The United Methodist Book of Discipline provides for a sabbatical of up to a year every seventh year of ministry, in reality they are rarely taken. Recent years have seen an increasing awareness of the need for clergy care, including the practice of sabbatical. The Lilly Foundation funds up to 150 sabbaticals each year, making this experience financially feasible for congregations and clergy around the nation.
How long will the sabbatical last? Why?
According to best practices and the requirements of the Lilly grant, sabbaticals are to last a minimum of 3-4 months. Sally’s sabbatical will be 3 ½ months long, from April 24-August 14.
Will Sally be worshiping with us?
During this time, Sally will be intentionally away from our congregation for personal renewal, education, and travel. At times, she and Andy might worship with other congregations, which will help her experience and be informed by other worship styles.
Will Sally be available for funerals, weddings, or other special needs?
Although Sally will be praying for the church daily throughout her sabbatical, she will not be available for services during this time period.
Who will be tending to the congregation while she’s gone?
We are blessed with excellent clergy, both on staff and retired. Rev. Jan Bond will work full time and take the lead in administrative and pastoral matters. Rev. Mark Hansher will also be adding hours to his usual workload. Rev. Lesley Hansher will be assisting in worship leadership and in the pulpit. In addition, several retired clergy who are part of our church will be assisting in the pulpit, including Rev. Jackie Clevenger, Rev. Gary Rhodes, and Rev. Steve Cox.
Who is paying for the sabbatical activities for Sally and pastoral coverage at church?
A generous grant from the Lilly Foundation is paying for all of Sally’s sabbatical activities. This grant is also paying for additional hours from Rev. Jan and Rev. Mark. In addition, the grant will fund activities for our church, including Marcia McFee’s special worship services in July and a congregation-wide sabbatical return celebration on August 20.
How will the congregation benefit during Sally’s sabbatical?
The Lilly Foundation has discovered that over 80% of congregations report that they benefited as a congregation from their pastor’s sabbatical. Those congregations mention an increased sense of confidence in their own ability to care for themselves. A sabbatical provides an opportunity for laity to grow in their own relationship with God, rather than relying on the pastor. We are working to insure that First UMC thrives during this time. We’ll be bringing in guest speakers that will challenge and enrich us. We are convinced that First UMC will be one of the 80%, and that we will be better as a congregation as a result of our pastor’s sabbatical.
Will Sally come back to our church after her sabbatical? How can we know she won’t just stay on an island somewhere and never return?
One of the conditions that Lilly Foundation sets on grant recipients is that the pastor will remain in that church for at least one more year. The church has agreed, and the Bishop and Cabinet have assented, for Sally to remain as pastor of First UMC through June 30, 2018 at a minimum.