Dear People of Annunciation,
In a few recent writings, I have made reference to my going on a sabbatical following Diocesan Convention. In my article in this edition of the Annunciator, I thought I would write a little more at length about my planned sabbatical and how it will affect the life of the parish.
The concept of a sabbatical is rooted in the Scripture. We are reminded that God commanded periods of rest, reflective of God’s own periods of rest. God rests on the Seventh Day of Creation, reflective of the day off clergy take each week. (Friday is usually my day off. It is one I try not to break except for urgent emergencies.) Jesus takes time apart from the disciples in his own ministry. (I am expected to take periods of leave for vacation and continuing education each year.) We also have the biblical admonition to allow land to rest for an extended time every seven years, which includes by extension the laborers of the land. It is this last idea which gives rise to clergy sabbaticals. In my case, I will celebrate my 7th anniversary at Annunciation on December 1 and the 14th anniversary of my ordination to the priesthood on November 2.
The practical purpose of a clergy sabbatical is to provide a time of vocational renewal to strengthen our ability to serve the church. The work of a priest is one of significant emotional labor, and sabbaticals allow us to take some time to step back in order to refocus. Sabbaticals include times of study, spiritual renewal, family time, and rest. The goal is to return with a renewed passion and vision for ministry. As a result, your Vestry and Bishop Smith have authorized my going on a Sabbatical starting with the conclusion of worship on November 16. I will return on December 1. In a future article in the Annunciator, I will share more about my sabbatical plans.
I am interested in hearing questions you might have that might be shared more widely in a future Annunciator article. If one comes to mind, please email me. (As a reminder, email is not considered a confidential mode of communication by diocesan policy.) There are a few questions that I suspect you have that I will answer here.
I will be relinquishing the responsibilities of being Rector of the Church of the Annunciation for the duration of the sabbatical. While I will be away during many points of the sabbatical, this remains true during times I am back in the rectory. I will not be engaging in pastoral, spiritual, or temporal matters of the parish. This would include the conduct of funerals in the event one arises. The only exception to altering my sabbatical would be in the event of a major cataclysmic disaster in consultation with our bishop and wardens.
Caroline Powers, our Senior Warden, will become the Ecclesiastical Authority of the parish while I am on sabbatical. She will assume most of the authority which I normally hold as Rector on issues surrounding staffing, building use, programming, and the Vestry. When issues arise in the parish, Caroline will have the authority to make decisions for the benefit of the parish, conferring with other vestry members, parish clergy, and diocesan officials as needed.
I have been advised to have one member of the clergy to oversee the spiritual affairs of the parish during my absence. I have asked Bishop Michael Garrison to step into this role. He will preach and preside on most occasions while I am away and will be available to respond to pastoral needs which may arise. When necessary, he may delegate this role to another priest or deacon affiliated with the parish. That said, Bishop Garrison’s role will strictly focus on spiritual matters, particularly those limited to those in Holy Orders. Many of the normal responsibilities of Rector should be directed to Caroline.
Sabbaticals are also meant to be a time of renewal within the life of parishes as well. One of the outcomes of the pandemic is that things that are ordinarily the responsibility of the laity were shifted onto the clergy. My hope is that this time away helps us to recenter that focus toward our common ministry, which involves the active participation of the laity of the parish.
With grateful thanks for your partnership in the Gospel,