When I began serving as your pastor in the summer of 2014, we entered into a covenant of shared ministry together. Together, we agreed on guiding principles for my service alongside you as your pastor. One of the items outlined in my Call Agreement is that I will be on leave for a three-month paid sabbatical after every five years of ministry at First Congregational UCC. My first sabbatical will be in the summer of 2019.
My sabbatical will be an important time for me to practice what I preach: that Sabbath is a commandment, not a suggestion. On a regular basis, I do my level best to hold myself accountable before God and you in terms of keeping Sabbath. I try not to respond to messages after hours unless they are urgent. I switch my phone to “do not disturb” after 10pm so that I won’t be awoken by the buzz of text messages (don’t worry, if you have a true emergency you can call me and I’ll still hear it). I work very hard when I am in the office so that I might be able to find time for rest, family, and recreation when I am at home. I give thanks that you support an environment that makes this possible.
A pastor’s sabbatical is meant to be a time of intentional rest from the labors of day-to-day ministry in a congregation, as well as a time of intentional renewal and reflection. Additionally, pastoral sabbaticals are a gift to the congregation because they provide much-needed space for the congregation to re-solidify its identity apart from the current pastor. A well-planned sabbatical can opportunities for lay leaders and other staff to step into new roles and try out new forms of ministry. Sabbaticals are good for the pastor and the congregation.
The past few months, I have been thankful to be in conversation with our Pastoral Relations Committee and Cabinet about the possibility of applying for a grant through the National Clergy Renewal Program, funded by the Lilly Endowment. This program seeks to support congregations and pastors during sabbatical periods, providing funding of up to $50,000 to be used to fund activities for the pastor and congregation - mutually enriching us during our time apart and helping us all renew our passion for ministry.
You are invited to join the committee that is working on the grant proposal (Dale Stearns, Andrea Chamberlain, and myself) for a Listening Session in January (see invitation box below this article). At these sessions we hope to share more details about the grant and hear your ideas, too. In the meantime, please don’t hesitate to be in conversation with any of us or with our incoming Moderator Dave Smit if you have any questions.
Listening Sessions for the National Clergy Renewal Program for Pastor Caela’s 2019 Sabbatical
Sunday, January 14th at 9:30am
Sunday, January 21st immediately after the Congregational Meeting
Please attend either meeting to learn more about the Lilly Endowment’s National Clergy Renewal Program and share your ideas.
The Lilly Endowment National Clergy Renewal Program at Christian Theological Seminary (CTS) seeks to strengthen Christian congregations by providing opportunities for pastors to step away briefly from the persistent obligations of daily parish life and to engage in a period of renewal and reflection. Renewal periods are not vacations, but times for intentional exploration and reflection, for regaining the enthusiasm and creativity for ministry, for discovering what will make the pastor’s heart sing.
Pastors serve a variety of roles in their privileged position at the center of congregational life: preacher, teacher, spiritual guide, pastoral visitor, friend, confidant. The responsibilities are continual, and the pace and demands of parish life can be relentless, often leaving even the most dedicated pastors recognizing the need to replenish their own spiritual reservoirs to regain energy and strength for their ministry.
Life-giving experiences—strengthening relationships, renewing a sense of call, meeting and serving the neighbor in a new way, finding joy and purpose in a simplified life, traveling to new lands and unfamiliar territories, creating opportunities where members of the congregation can exercise their gifts for ministry—are common themes of these renewal times. Profound discoveries that pastors and their congregations describe as “life-changing events” occur as they participate in this program.
The Lilly Endowment National Clergy Renewal Program at Christian Theological Seminary will provide grants of up to $50,000 each directly to congregations for the support of a renewal program for their pastor. The costs associated with family members who accompany a pastor may be included in the amount requested for the pastor. Up to $15,000 of the grant may be used to help the congregation fulfill pastoral duties during the pastor’s absence and/or to support activities that enable the congregation as a whole to be renewed in its ministry.
Learn more at http://www.cpx.cts.edu/renewal