Posts Tagged ‘Sabbaticals’

God will fully satisfy every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.
– Philippians 4:19

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Hanging out with singer-songwriter, Johnny Mercer in Savannah’s Ellis Square.

Dear Friends:

I pray that you are having a restful and restorative summer, and that all is well back at the Old Stone Church and in the great city of Cleveland, Ohio! As you are aware, I’ve been off campus on sabbatical since May 15 experiencing some restorative time of my own. That doesn’t mean I’ve been on vacation, though. In fact, I’ve been very busy doing some of the sorts of things that are reinvigorating my thoughts and my spirit for my ministry among you. Here’s the “dirty” details and more photos! (more…)

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Taking a sabbatical, in some ways, forces us to overcome the anxious demons of workaholism and admit that there is a God and we’re not it! 

Rest Path

Just the mere idea of taking 12 weeks away from my daily work to renew my body, mind, and spirit seems radical to me. It goes against almost every planted grain shooting-up from the garden of my “work hard and work always” Protestant upbringing. “There is no work, however vile or sordid, that does not glisten before God,” said that miserable old workaholic reformer, John Calvin. The two most recurring imperatives of my youth were, “Get a haircut!” and “Get a job!” – most often spoken in the same breath. Never mind glistening before God, I was taught that “Work makes you a man!”

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white flag

THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU! To the congregation of the Old Stone Church (First Presbyterian Church of Cleveland), I extend my deepest appreciation! After almost 30 years in the pulpit, I’m eagerly longing for my very first genuine sabbatical.

I’m not ashamed to admit that throughout the last three decades, even though I’ve had countless joys and incredibly rewarding experiences in ministry, I have experienced seasons of frustration, disappointment, and plain old burnout, as well. I should have waved the white flag of surrender and asked for a proper sabbatical years ago.

The Presbyterian Church (USA) Office of the General Assembly says that:

Clergy . . . bear the burdens, the anguish, the pain, and hurt of their parishioners 24-7. That is 24 hours, seven days a week. As a result, many, if not all, experience to one degree or another symptoms of emotional collapse, stress related illnesses, and “burnout” adversely affecting the minister’s personal, family, and parish life, and greatly diminishing his or her effectiveness and well-being. For too long, this situation has been accepted, even tolerated as an inevitable part of the job.[1]

Whew! Don’t I know it. Currently, I am the Senior Pastor of the remarkable urban/metropolitan congregation, the Old Stone Church in downtown Cleveland. It is an exceptional experience to pastor such a busy, historic church with a unique and unwavering commitment to the city. The demands, however, of a church such as Old Stone can be oppressively relentless. There are desert times when I can go months without a solid day off, and I find myself trying to rehydrate my body, mind, and most importantly, my spirit with small sips of time in an afternoon here or a morning there.

There’s an old story about a missionary who is driving between two villages in his old jeep. He spots a villager sitting by the road and offers him a ride. The villager graciously declines. When the missionary persists, saying that it would be no trouble to give him a lift to the next town, the villager responds by saying: “My good sir, I’ve traveled a long way today. Now I must rest so that my spirit may catch-up with my body.

After three decades of ministry, it’s time now for my spirit to catch-up to my body. Over the next number of weeks, in preparation for my sabbatical, I’m going to post more about what a sabbatical is, what I’m learning about myself, what I’ll actually be doing (and not doing!) while on sabbatical, and how I’m preparing for my spirit and my body to get reacquainted with one another.

Please feel free to follow along, or offer a kind word or helpful comment along the way. Please do share these sabbatical updates with a friend whose spirit and body may benefit from what you read here – particularly other clergy and/or the congregations they so faithfully serve.

Thanks for reading, and any prayers you wish to lift on my behalf are most dearly appreciated. Thanks!

Love,
Mark

[1] From the Office of the General Assembly, PC(USA). http://oga.pcusa.org/section/mid-council-ministries/ministers/rationale-sabbatical-leave/ Accessed 2018 01 10.