The countdown is on. I will beginning my second sabbatical in less than 24 hours.
Now I have to expand on this term “sabbatical.” First, United Church ministers who remain in their pastoral charges more than five years are entitled to a three-month sabbatical (i.e., time away from normal ministry) for every five years they serve in a charge. So, I’ve been in the South Mountain-Hallville Pastoral Charge (SMHPC) for 14 years and about to take my second sabbatical.
Second, what I’m calling “sabbatical” actually includes three types of leave to which I’m entitled: I’m taking two weeks of study leave (from my annual allotment of three weeks), my three-month sabbatical (May 1 to July 31, 2017), and finally my summer holidays. This means that I will be away from the rigours and hustle and bustle of being a regular minister from just after Easter (April 17) to Labour Day (September 4).
Now, the word “sabbatical” comes from “Sabbath,” which (if you know your Bible), is the seventh day of creation when God rested and commanded us (people!) to rest too! So a sabbatical for ministers is a time away to rest, sure, but more importantly, a time for recreation (which should be read “RE-CREATION”) or to renew and refresh oneself.
And while this time away is a perk of being a minister, I am very aware of how lucky and blessed I am to be able to make use of this benefit. United Church ministers have only been able to take sabbaticals within the last 12 years or so.
As many of you know, I have been trudging away at doing my Doctor of Ministry (D.Min) degree (through the University of Toronto) for almost a decade. In that time, I have done course work, written papers, read thousands of pages of articles and books and have done research. The one thing I haven’t done yet is to write my dissertation. The dissertation—or thesis—is the final “paper” that I will present and defend before a panel of academics.
So during my sabbatical, I will be bringing together all that I have learned, all the research I have gleaned and hopefully pulling it all together into something that will be of benefit to the Church. Because, really, that’s the point of doing the D.Min degree. I won’t be paid more because I have my D.Min and I won’t be more “attractive” to other churches because I will be a Reverend Doctor. I’m not planning on leaving SMHPC—these past 10 years have been an adventure in new avenues of thought. Instead, I hope that what I have learned will help others who will be in ministry now and in the future.
Regardless, it’s been awesome learning from some amazing teachers like Rev. Dr. Andrew Irvine, Dr. Dianne Tye, Rev. Dr. Mike Wood-Daley. And not to mention my compatriots in the doctoral program: Rev. Heather Vais, Rev. Dan Tatarnic, Rev. Dr. Valerie Michaelson to name a few who have walked with me, and sat with me at the Knox College Breezeway.
So, like the Canada geese that frequent the skies and fields around me, and the crocuses that are peeking their purple and yellow blossoms through the leaf litter as well as the robins that wake me in the morning (because we can leave the windows open a little now), I will return.
Until then, my amazing pastoral charge will be well served by my dear friend and colleague, Rev. Ralph Taylor. Ralph is a retired United Church minister living in nearby Kemptville and he has a heart for ministry and God’s beloved children. He and I serve on the council of Rideau Hill Camp, and while I’m only a Newfoundlander by adoption, Ralph is a born and bred Newfie! He may be a townie too, you’ll have to ask him about that. With Ralph augmenting the ministry of our licensed lay worship leaders (lay preachers) such as Jim Allen, Dan Roddick, and Carol Workman, our congregations will keep buzzing like a happy hive.