From the Dean's Desk
Friday, 05.21.21

Saint Mark’s Episcopal Cathedral
The Very Rev. Paul J. Lebens-Englund, Dean
Mr Paul Lakeman, Senior Warden
Spring 2021

RE: Dean’s Sabbatical, July 1-October 31, 2021

Dear Saint Markans & Friends,

The following serves to provide a high-level overview of the goals and activities for the Dean’s sabbatical this summer and early fall. The term ‘sabbatical’ derives from the biblical mandate to practice ‘sabbath,’ or rest, which is prescribed for ‘the seventh day.’ It is mostly a time of rest to step away from day to day pressures, reflecting with the those closest to the sabbatical candidate on the roots of their spiritual journey and the path forward for the benefit of both candidate and congregation. Thus, there’s some beautiful synergy inherent to this timing, as the Dean will take his sabbatical as his seventh year ends and his eighth year begins – eight being the symbol of ‘wholeness’ or ‘completion.’ That is, we’ve completed one chapter of our life together, and it’s time to prayerfully reflect on and prepare for the next.

It’s important to note that, though the timing of sabbatical is related to the Dean’s tenure, the sabbatical is not only for the Dean, but, rather, for both the Dean and the Cathedral congregation. We have each arrived to this point in our relationship together, mutually shaping each other and sharing in the hard work of being Saint Mark’s in our time and place, which has been marked by successes and failures, by rejoicing and lamenting, by living and dying and rising to new life again! 

We have worked hard to be faithful to God’s call to follow Jesus in the Way of Love. We have born witness to God’s abiding presence and abundant provision in the best of times and the worst of times. And, by doing so, we have strengthened our commitment as ‘Church’ to be solid at the core and soft at the margins, sharing a Life in God that sustains us and stabilizes us so that we have energy, compassion, clarity, courage, conviction, and capacity to engage the world on God’s behalf – leavening the networks of our daily lives and the systems of our society with Good News, with hope, joy, love, justice, and peace. 

Most specifically, we have accomplished most of the goals that shaped the 2014 Cathedral search profile that was used to call Dean Paul to a partnership in ministry among us. The goals outlined – and the gifts needed to accomplish those goals – aligned with Dean Paul’s own sense of self, and the Cathedral Search Team concurred, extending an invitation to Dean Paul the first week of July 2014. Seven years have passed. Much has been accomplished. Much has changed. Much remains the same. So it is incumbent upon us now to take a season of Sabbath and self-reflection, both for the Dean and for the Cathedral congregation, to assess the reality of the present moment – to inventory and to celebrate all the good progress of these past seven years AND to exercise some prayerful candor in asking What now? To what future is God calling us? What new work and witness is the world demanding of us? What gifts and passions do we have among us to answer that call and to engage that work? In what ways are we ready to answer the call and engage the work today? In what ways do we still need to grow, to mature, and to resource ourselves for these important years ahead?

These are big questions and they are important questions because, as Church, we never simply mark time, but we sanctify it with our prayers of thanks and praise and with our best efforts to continue bending the moral arc of the universe toward justice and lasting peace. Toward that end, we’ve endeavored to balance both intentional rest AND deliberate reflection during our time apart.

With all this in mind, here is an overview of our sabbatical rest and reflection.
Vocation is the place where our deep gladness meets the world’s deep need.
-The Rev. Frederick Buechner

Heavenly Father, we thank you that by water and the Holy Spirit you have bestowed upon us your servants the forgiveness of sin, and have raised us to the new life of grace. Sustain us, O Lord, in your Holy Spirit. Give us inquiring and discerning hearts, the courage to will and to persevere, a spirit to know and to love you, and the gift of joy and wonder in all your works. Amen.
-Book of Common Prayer

The Dean’s Sabbatical: Overview


Sabbatical begins with travel west for a period of rest to reconnect with extended family and with my seminary Alma Mater in Berkeley; Initial contemplation of White Christian Nationalism and Christo-fascism, with particular emphasis as it relates to Saint Mark’s recently completed Racial Justice Audit and the forthcoming work of our Racial Justice and Healing Team; This will be a time of faith renewal and vocational reflection, re-visiting the spiritual and familial roots that first launched me on the journey to priesthood. 


I will continue my studies of White Christian Nationalism and Christo-fascism; Rest, relaxation, reflection with nuclear family; Review of past seven years at Saint Mark’s in light of 2014 Search Profile’s stated goals; Begin Draft report of Dean’s review and forecast; Focus on family and beginning of Owen’s college search.

The Cathedral’s Sabbatical: Overview


Summer Sabbath: All Cathedral programs on pause, Evensong on pause; Senior Warden and Canon Pastor coordinate and facilitate small group review of Saint Mark’s 2014 Search Profile, identifying work completed, work yet to be done, and new work to be considered; Summer Sabbath & Fall kick-off Prep. 

Senior Warden and Canon Pastor work closely with external consultant (ECMN, other?) to plan for fall leadership and congregational information-gathering process in order to begin crafting renewed statement of Vision, Mission, Goals, Tasks, Timelines. 


Fall launch & Beginning of Congregational Work: Following fall kick-off Sunday, 9.12, conduct month-long information gathering process – surveys, interviews, etc.; Working with consultant, begin identifying themes, energy, potential focus for guiding Vision and Goals for next 10 years; Begin drafting Emerging Congregational Vision, Goals, Tasks, Timelines, and Leadership Competencies culminating in a draft document ‘Saint Mark’s at 2021,’ which will include celebration of successes since 2014 and summary statement of themes from leadership and congregational info-gathering; Lastly, the Executive Team will guide the development of a concrete list of identified Goals, Tasks, Timelines, and Leadership Competencies pointing us toward 2030; The Executive Team will plan and schedule a meeting with the Dean for first half of November, ensuring sufficient time to address possible implications for 2022 operating budget that may grow out of Dean’s and Congregation’s review and visioning work.

Please feel comfortable reaching out to me at with any thoughts and questions on this unique moment in Saint Mark’s mission and ministry.

In the meantime, may Peace be with you,

Paul E. Lakeman, Senior Warden