There are times when I am almost embarrassed to tell colleagues that I get a sabbatical. The envy is almost more than I can bear! It is even worse when I tell my “non-clergy” friends. Their reaction, even if in jest, is always, “But you only work one day a week now!” (I remind them that I also work on Wednesdays, thank you very much!) What many want to know, however, is how. How did I get a sabbatical?
It was very easy! I asked.
There was a bit more to it. I moved to Providence 17 years ago from a position at First Baptist, Greenville. At that time I was granted a 2-month sabbatical every 4 years. So when we began having conversation with Providence, I just asked for 2 months every 3 years. I can only imagine their thinking. “He is taking a pay cut to come here, so we should be nice. But seriously, the average tenure of a minister is barely 3 years, so this probably won’t ever cost us anything! Let’s throw it in!”
This will be my 5th sabbatical! It is the secret to my longevity. (Well that a an occasional walk on the beach and fresh shrimp.) In all seriousness I cannot imagine doing this job without the knowledge that there is a time when I will be able to just set everything down and just be...
A sabbatical is gift from our church to my family and me. These weeks give us time to just be, to reconnect, to vacate. But it is also a gift to our congregation. Providence is unique in that we have 21 ordained ministers in our congregation. (We only have about 350 members, so you do the math!) While I am away our congregation gets to hear a different voice. This time we also have the gift of several friends “from off” who are coming to lead in worship.
But this sabbatical is also a gift from the Lily Foundation. Several years ago they became concerned about burnout in ministers, how many were just walking away to do something else. They created a program that would allow ministers time away to renew their souls, to do things that would make their hearts sing. I had applied several times before, but to no avail. I applied again this year (actually last year) expecting the same result!
So over the next 12 weeks (I am using all my vacation time this year) we will be resting at home, and then off on a wonderful journey. We are going to Beijing, China to see our daughter and son-in-law; then to visit/work with friends in Bali and then home via Perth, Australia where we going to check up on church members.
None of that would have been possible without this grant, for which I am so grateful; without the gift of the time from Providence; without the extra work and ministry by my colleagues. It really is gift. I really am grateful.
My guess is I don’t know how grateful yet. That will come over the next few weeks.