(Scroll down to see the answers to some common questions after Dennis’s letter…)
Through the generosity and support of this congregation, I have been granted a 12-week sabbatical this summer. It will begin on Tuesday, June 3, and I will return on Monday, August 25. It will be a precious opportunity to experience rest and renewal, to reconnect with my family, and to re-kindle my relationship with Christ. Thank you for this great gift.
While away I plan to take a course on leadership in the church, go on two spiritual retreats, worship in other vibrant churches to learn from their strengths and successes, do significant reading, spend extended periods in prayer, and enjoy abundant time with my wife and daughter.
I’m deeply grateful that Dr. Maureen Paterson will preach on half of the Sundays that I’m away. For the remaining Sundays there will be a wonderful line-up of guest preachers, including church members, the Presbytery of Elizabeth’s “Transitional Leader” Reverend Cheryl Galan, and our Pastor Emeritus Dr. James Morris.
While I’m away our Elders, Trustees, Deacons, Stephen Ministers, and all of our councils and committees will continue their vital work, providing leadership for our programs and ministries. Our amazing church staff will continue their loving and faithful ministry. All will be covered and all will be well. I am confident it will be a fantastic summer at BRPC.
Since I am officiating at an out of town wedding for a church member during the weekend of June 1, my last Sunday in worship prior to my sabbatical will be May 25. In God’s perfect timing that is also the morning that we will ordain and install our newly elected church officers, and celebrate the truth that Christ calls every single one of us to serve and to minister to one another on his behalf.
I am incredibly grateful for the privilege and blessing of serving as your pastor, and for this wonderful gift of time away for rest and spiritual renewal. I will hold you in prayer during the summer, and I look forward to beginning a new chapter with you upon my return.
Dennis W. Jones
Summer of 2014 Pastoral Sabbatical for Reverend Dennis W. Jones — Questions and Answers
1. What is a sabbatical?
The word sabbatical has its roots in the biblical concept of Sabbath (“to rest” or “to cease”). Sabbath keeping is setting aside time that God consecrates and makes holy. Sabbatical leave is a time for a pastor to shift gears in order to rest, disengage, study, reflect, and travel in order to return to ministry refreshed and renewed in body, mind, and spirit. It is much more than a break from meetings, budgets, sermons, and people in need. It is a time for a pastor to receive spiritual nourishment and a change in perspective, to deepen his or her relationship with God, and to enter a season of spiritual growth. It is also a rich opportunity for a season of growth for the entire congregation.
2. What are the benefits of granting a sabbatical to our pastor?
As part of his original terms of call, approved on March 11, 2009, we pledged to provide a 12-week sabbatical after the first five years of service. It was approved that the 12 weeks would include two weeks of vacation time and two weeks of study leave. More and more congregations are granting their pastors sabbaticals, and their answers as to why it is a good thing both for church and pastor include:
• Sabbaticals encourage long pastorates.
• Sabbaticals offer needed time for personal and professional development.
• Those in the helping professions are at much higher risk for burnout.
• Ministers serving a congregation receive constant invitations to over-extend themselves and torpedo their vitality.
• A church can only become as healthy and vital as its pastor.
• The accumulation of expectations upon a pastor, even during normal vacation time, takes a toll upon the body, spiritual life, and family of the pastor.
• Sabbaticals nurture congregational self-sufficiency.
3. How long will Dennis be gone?
For 12 weeks, beginning on Tuesday, June 3, 2014, and ending on Sunday, August 24, 2014. Dennis’ first Sunday back will be August 31, 2014. This time will include two weeks of continuing education, two weeks of his 31 days of vacation, and eight additional weeks of sabbatical.
4. What will Dennis do on his sabbatical?
Some of the details are still being finalized. Dennis’ present plans include preparing for and attending an Alban Institute course entitled “Leading Adaptive Change.” He will have two extended retreat experiences, one with other pastors, and the other in silence alone. He will worship in other vibrant churches to learn from their strengths and successes, and do significant reading. He will renew his relationships with his wife and daughter and extended family. His sabbatical will also include plenty of unstructured time for rest, recreation, prayer, and being still.
5. What is the cost?
There will be no additional cost to the congregation. Spiritual retreat and conference costs will be funded by Dennis’ regular 2014 continuing education fund and, if needed, from other continuing education money that has accrued.
6. How will his responsibilities be covered while he is away?
Elders of Session, Trustees, Deacons, and Stephen Ministers will continue their vital work, providing leadership for our programs and ministries. The church staff will continue to carry out their regular responsibilities, and will meet weekly. Maureen will preach approximately half of the Sundays Dennis is away. For the remaining Sundays worship leadership will be provided by the Senior High Maine Workcampers, VBS leaders, interested church members, and guest preachers. (The Executive Presbyter of Elizabeth Presbytery, Reverend Cheryl Galan, has already agreed to preach on June 29.)
7. Will we have contact with Dennis during the 12 weeks?
No. While on sabbatical Dennis will fully disengage from all pastoral responsibilities and contact. While he is away clerk of Session Dick Fryling or Reverend Maureen Paterson will inform him of any deaths in the church family.
8. Will the church just be in a “holding pattern” while Dennis is away?
Of course not. Though summer is typically a less active time in the church year, all of our ministries will continue to flourish while Dennis is away, and perhaps new ones will be formed. It is important to remember that a sabbatical is a two-way process: while the pastor is away on a journey of renewal, refreshment, and reflection, the congregation will embark on a similar journey as well.