This summer the congregation I partner with in ministry and I have been given a gift. It’s the gift of a sabbatical. By definition a sabbatical is to be a time of rest, renewal, reflection and refreshment. It shares the same root as the word “sabbath”. My understanding of sabbath is, in part, a disruption of the normal routine in order to be able to live a different rhythm. Just as the sabbath invites us to stop, worship, rest and rejoice – breaking the weekly rhythm of work and production; the hope of a sabbatical is to also live into a new, or different rhythm in order to pay attention to new and different things. One who has observed sabbath is ready to re-enter and re-engage in the routine of life, knowing that he or she is not at the center of keeping the world spinning. So is the hope of a sabbatical – to re-set one’s perspective and allow a refreshed and reinvigorated engagement in vocation for the next season.
At the heart of this sabbath keeping (whether for a day or a season) is rhythm. We might think of it in terms of a weekly sabbath – six beats followed by a rest. Or in our case three months followed by a new chapter. Within the three month experience come opportunities of rhythmic engagement – times of travel and activity, coupled with and followed by times of rest and replenishment. Key to all is allowing space for the unexpected and the unplanned to emerge and come into focus.
The theme for our summer sabbatical experience is “Re-framing a New Picture for Ministry.” After 30+ years in pastoral ministry I hope to take a few steps back to re-frame my own approach and view of ministry. I recognize that the world has changed a great deal in my time of vocational engagement. I too must change to be able to more effectively help connect persons of this day and age with the gospel. I am interested in seeing how that is happening elsewhere, and what those pictures might suggest in terms of our own framing of ministry. I am also looking forward to dabbling in photography as my sabbatical hobby. The picture above is a display of things I (and family members) will be doing over the next three months. I hope to add additional pictures and posts as time goes by.
At the beginning of this post I wrote that our sabbatical experience is a shared one between congregation and pastor. How is that possible? After all I am the one stepping away for three months. True. However, through the provision of the Lilly grant for clergy and congregational renewal, the church is also sharing many new experiences over this same time. They too are reframing pictures for ministry as they experience a variety of preaching and teaching voices, participate in faith formation opportunities, experience the arts and share photography challenges. I am excited for the church’s summer experience, and keeping it in my prayers.
May the Sabbath rhythm encompass us each and do it’s work of refreshment among us to God’s glory. Amen.