Do you remember the excitement of snow days when you were young? No school, playing with friends, watching TV, hanging out, building snow-forts and having snowball fights… the anticipation alone would keep a kid up late when snow was forecast for the next day. I remember when a rumor that wearing your pajamas inside out would guarantee a snow the next day wardrobe swirled around my kid’s school, resulting in lots of bedtime wardrobe changes, giggles, and sleepless children.
As an adult, snowdays are a little calmer. In fact, with the hush of blanket of snow, the warmth of a fire, the opportunity to sleep in, take a nap or read a book, snow days force us to slow down. With the call of fresh powder, snow days can also usher us outside for the renewal of ruddy cheeks that only exercise in the cold can create. Snow days, are a reminder that it is OK to take a day off and take time for true Sabbath rest.
Snow days offer a hint about Sabbatical time. In the words of the Lilly Endowment National Clergy Renewal Program, “Sabbaticals seek to strengthen congregations by providing opportunities for pastors to step away briefly from the persistent obligations of daily parish life and to engage in a period of renewal and reflection. Renewal periods are not vacations, but times for intentional exploration and reflection, for regaining the enthusiasm and creativity for ministry, for discovering what will make the pastor’s heart sing…. The responsibilities are continual, and the pace and demands of parish life can be relentless, often leaving even the most dedicated pastors recognizing the need to replenish their own spiritual reservoirs to regain energy and strength for their ministry. Life-giving experiences-strengthening relationships, renewing a sense of call, meeting and serving the neighbor in a new way, finding joy and purpose in a simplified life, traveling to new lands and unfamiliar territories, creating opportunities where members of the congregation can exercise their gifts for ministry-are common themes of these renewal times. Profound discoveries that pastors and their congregations describe as “life-changing events” occur as they participate in this program.” ( Note that for Lilly, the sabbatical is an opportunity for rest, renewal, and rediscovery of ministry for both the pastor and congregation.)
In the Episcopal Diocese of Maine, clergy are given four months of sabbatical every five years. When combined with vacation, this typically means five months away from the congregation. Because of the capital campaign and Rose Window wall construction, my sabbatical scheduled for a year or so ago will begin April 17 (the Monday after Easter) and will end September 16 (as our fall program year is beginning). The vestry has engaged the Rev. Canon Sam Henderson to be priest-in-charge here while I am gone. The funding of his position is covered in our 2017 budget.
People have asked what I plan to do during this time. Currently there are many options up in the air. Once things have become clear, I will let you know. In the meantime, I thank you for this opportunity and pray that it will be a time of rest, renewal and rediscovery for you and for me.