Leviticus 25 declares a Sabbatical year for Israel, one every seven. It was to be a year of rest and renewal for the people (including hired laborers and slaves), the land (including agricultural fields), and animals.
Mennonite Church USA has its own Sabbatical guidelines. It suggests pastors be granted a three month Sabbatical every four years.
2018 has turned out to be a Sabbatical year for both Mark (April and May) and me (June, July, August) – although this is my fifth year rather than fourth, and Mark’s Sabbatical will be two-ish months rather than three because of being less than full time.
Today Gwen, Mim, Mark, and I had a staff retreat to plan for this Sabbatical year. We sat around a very cozy fire at Gwen’s house and sketched out what our part of this planning involves. Practically speaking, it means CMC will have a solo pastor for five months of the year. My Sabbatical grant from the Lilly Foundation will pay for Mark to go full time, with extra administrative hours for Mim, in my absence.
Mark and I will have time in the upcoming months to communicate more specifically how we plan to use our Sabbatical time. In short, one of the areas Mark will be exploring will be different models and theologies of youth ministry. I’ll be guided by the theme “Called In: World, City, Congregation, Self.” The hope for a clergy Sabbatical is that in stepping back from every day ministry responsibilities we have space to be renewed in ways that wouldn’t be possible otherwise, including unhurried time with our spouses.
Despite some potential extra work for the congregation, the hope is also that this can be a time of renewal for everyone. We are fortunate that the Lilly grant will pay for some unique opportunities in the summer including guest speakers, artists creating new worship banners, spiritual direction for CMCers, and an adult session for Vacation Bible School in July.
Before either of us begin Sabbatical-ing, we will have a Sabbath theme for our Lent worship series. We’ll talk about and reflect on the practice and meaning of Sabbath, and consider ways that Sabbath might become a more expansive part of how we do life.
I’m grateful to be a part of a congregation that values Sabbatical time for its pastors. Let’s see what comes our way during this Sabbatical year.