Just These Thoughts My Friends...
An Important Announcement Regarding 2018 Pastoral Sabbatical
It has been both a privilege and an incredible joy to serve this church family as pastor over these past fourteen years. We have worked together, with the Lord’s great help, to grow the ministries, missions, and membership of this congregation. Of note, in these fourteen years, has been the establishment of a more regular Wednesday evening program of food, fellowship, and study for all ages; the calling of our first associate pastor; the implementation of a “second” worship service; becoming connected and engaged in mission work with Young Life, Nicaragua; the start of our Good News Club at Hodges; and the faithful move of God’s people to RPC and ECO. In all of these things we give thanks to God. As we celebrate the start of our fifteenth year together as pastor and people, I want to share with you an important announcement from the session regarding my ministry among you this year, and in particular, a sabbatical time away this summer.
In August, 2011, the session adopted the “Sabbatical Leave Policy for Ministers,” and graciously offered me a three-month sabbatical. The origin of this is Biblical and the purpose of the sabbatical reminds us that after a season of time (typically seven years), an opportunity for rest and renewal is necessary. Jesus modeled this for us throughout the Gospels. Rest is necessary when considering the pastoral vocation, where compassion and care are required on a 24/7 basis. A time away from the requirements of pastoral work allows for a refreshing of heart, mind, and body. When offered the opportunity to take the sabbatical in 2011, the session was preparing to seek gracious dismissal from the PC(USA). Though grateful for the offer, I did not feel that it was the appropriate time for me to be away, even for three months. Six years later, and after much prayer, reflection, and discussion with staff and session, I believe that a brief sabbatical time away, to be renewed for service to God, and to you, the faithful Rock family, would be beneficial for the church. In November, the RPC session approved my request for a sabbatical leave.
The session has approved a three-month sabbatical for the upcoming months of May, June, and July, 2018. Work has already begun to insure that during these summer months the church will not lack for anything, and ministries and programs will run smoothly. Our associate pastor, Rev. Plumstead Marshall, will serve as interim head of staff during the sabbatical, and Sunday worship will be led by a number of very wonderful and gifted friends of mine who serve as pastors in regional ECO churches.
Desired Goal (s) of Sabbatical
Please understand that this sabbatical is not a “vacation.” It is an opportunity to seek refreshment from the Lord in ways that will renew the physical, emotional, and spiritual aspects of my life, and allow me to return as your pastor for a continued season of ministry.
Physically - While my experience of pastoral ministry is that it is not physically draining, the hours are long and the responsibility of always being on call does not often allow for true physical refreshment. A sabbatical would allow for that refreshment through an extended time of rest, continued care of the physical body, and additional recreational opportunities that fill the heart and mind with joy.
Emotionally - Ministry is a care-giving vocation, and requires the giving of one’s love, energy, and compassion to many, while also working to point the congregation to the greater love, energy, and compassion of God. In always seeking to “pour out,” it is often true that one’s emotional well being suffers and the cup needs to be replenished. A sabbatical would provide an opportunity to step back and receive from the Lord, family and friends, and the church, a refilling of my cup. This happens over the course of the sabbatical by taking advantage of the gift and wonder of renewed relationships with God, family and friends, where I will receive love and care from those closest to me.
Spiritually - A time to step away from vocation will allow a wide-open space for me to connect with my creator God, not for the purpose of preaching or Bible studies, or sessional responsibilities, but from the standpoint of the Father/son relationship which is mine through Jesus Christ. Sabbatical will allow for the opportunity to worship, instead of leading worship. To be prayed for, instead of praying for. To be cared for, instead of offering constant care. Sabbatical time away will allow for needed times of quiet, prayerful, meditative, and reflective hours/days; a visible reenactment of the times that our Lord spent communing alone with the Father. This will, along with rest, recreation, and renewed relationships, recharge my heart and soul.
Expectation - There is no doubt in my mind that when I return from this sabbatical, the evidence of God’s redemptive and restorative work upon my life will be clear to all. And my ability to serve you for the years to come will be strengthened. This will also be a time for leadership from the elders and you, the church family, which is something that ECO promotes as a point of “health” within the life of our churches. The Lord will provide all that is needed for this time.
Should you have any questions about this, please feel free to contact me, or the chair of the Personnel Ministry Team, elder Gus Ramage.
Dr. Chris Leonard