I think the word has gotten out – my application for a sabbatical grant has been approved, so my study leave scheduled for next year will be funded. That said, I have had a number of questions tossed in my direction. A little bit of Whaaat? With some When?, Where?, and How does this affect the rest of us?
Let’s start with the sabbatical. Eight and one-half years ago when we entered into a relationship of pastor and congregation, a sabbatical clause was written into the contract. After seven years, I would be awarded three months of additional leave time. Such time is a regular part of the world of professors, and they have become much more common in the ministerial world. Studies show that sabbaticals tend to produce renewed energy and purpose in clergy and they tend to be good for congregations as well. Some family situations have caused me to put off my sabbatical as well as an opportunity to acquire some foundation funding to cover some of the possibilities. And as a matter of fact, the word came back to us a few weeks ago that our application was accepted and a sizable portion of money will be given to undergird the costs of the sabbatical. I say “our” application, because the request to the foundation technically was written on behalf of the church. More about that in a moment.
But let me share with you a little bit about my plans. My proposal was to spend some time looking at congregational transition. I went this direction, in part, because FCC will celebrate its 150th year of ministry in 2020, and we need to think about how the future might claim us in new and exciting ways. I will be visiting some congregations, similar to ours, that are navigating their own transitions in vibrant ways. I will complete a course in church consulting to pick up some insights. And a broad theme for my reading and study during this time will center on sharing the Gospel in a pagan world, especially with respect to St. Paul’s work. Linda and I are going to spend some time in Rome and Athens – Paul’s world. That is a taste of the “what.” As for the “when,” we will be in Europe after Easter next year, and while I am still looking at some timing issues, at this point, I am thinking that will mark the beginning of my sabbatical time.
Now, I mentioned that there are some pieces of the grant that are to benefit the church. That is, FCC will hopefully get more out of this than a minister who returns in a good mood. A significant piece of funding is being provided to the church for two purposes: (1) to help provide resources to hire a part-time interim minister who will do more than just cover the pulpit responsibilities, and (2) to provide money to bring a transitional consultant in to work with us as we contemplate our future. There are some remarkable resources available, but they are not cheap, and this grant will allow us to get some expert conversation as we pause to think about who we are and who we shall be.
Anyway, it is all still in the planning stages, but as we all know, it is easier to plan with resources than with none. I will keep you up on how all of this is coming together. I appreciate the affection in the questions about how you will ever get along without me, but we all know that you survived – flourished even – for 140 years without me. My guess is that the time for all of us will pass too quickly.
So, God’s blessings and peace.
These thoughts and reflections come from our Senior Minister, Minister of Music and Board Chair. We hope that they provide both challenge and inspiration for your spiritual life.