This Sunday I will worship with you and be blessed for my next journey, a three month sabbatical that will begin on May 2nd and end on August 2nd. I am ready. You are ready.
You are ready, because we’ve been preparing for this time for 6 months. Your caring and knowledgeable staff and consultants will continue to do what they do well, plus a little extra on occasion. Rev. Lindberg will lead you in Sunday worship and be available for emergency pastoral care needs. Your council, committees, building community and church friends will buzz along, in their various areas of purview, because this church community is the sum of many parts. Church will continue.
I am ready too. I’ve made travel arrangements to reconnect with family and friends, started tuning up my bike, collected a list of book titles, and gradually disconnected from my work responsibilities. But those are the logistic indicators of logistical readiness. I am also ready, because circumstances are calling me to a phase of renewal and reflection. We have done so much over the last five years, and it’s time to prepare the soil of my spirit for the next season of our life together.
The word sabbatical comes from the Hebrew for sabbath, but implies a deeper level of respite than what we know as the weekly day of rest. The concept of sabbatical is more like the practice of shmita, recorded in the Torah as a sabbath year. Every seventh year, arable last used to produce crops, was left to lie fallow. This meant the land was not plowed, planted or harvested. For a full year, the land was not productive.
But even though there were no crops to be harvested during the seventh and sabbath year, activity took place. The land was given space for recovering, becoming more able to retain moisture, store nutrients and fend off harmful diseases. Allowing the land time to rest actually prevents depletion and fosters biodiversity!
For me, this sabbatical time will provide a similar opportunity to turn off the persistent demands of parish life, making extra space for creativity and connection; a different kind of work. I will be attentive to myself, my spirit and the God who called me and calls me still. This will allow me to drink from God’s life-giving waters, to be nourished by the breath of the Spirit and to be set free to explore and rediscover my joy for ministry.
There may be times over the next three months, when it feels like the church is lying fallow. There may even be tasks that go undone or opportunities that get missed. Remember that fallow time is sacred and worthwhile, even if it goes against what the world tells us. I hope you will also see the value in this season, not just for me, but for you and for our church. A season of sabbath is one of the ways God continues to work among us.
You are ready. I am ready. God goes with us.
Your sibling in Christ,