Congregations in the United Church of Christ and many other denominations provide sabbatical leave for their pastors in order to offer time for spiritual renewal and theological study. Although the pastor should be involved in study and enrichment all the time, the responsibilities of worship preparation, preaching, pastoral care, and administration often push the pastor’s own spiritual needs to the background. Pastors are also “on call” most of the time, which can be draining. It is vital, not only to the pastor but to the entire congregation, that the pastor receive dedicated time away for his or her spiritual well being and professional development.
The Louisville Institute’s clergy sabbatical program has this to say: “When clergy have opportunity for learning, growth, and recreation, they also learn the habits and practices that sustain them in and for meaningful ministry. During a season of personal renewal, study, and reflection pastoral leaders embrace the gifts of time and Sabbath for their lives and ministries. As they are renewed and strengthened so are their families, and so is the Church.”
From Our Pastor
Dear members and friends of First Congregational Church,
Thank you so much for this gift of sabbatical. Although the conferences of our denomination all recommend that churches provide their pastors with sabbatical time, not all churches do. The fact that this church has been offering sabbatical time for many years attests to your generosity toward your pastors.
It will feel very strange to be out of contact with you all. I will miss knowing what’s going on in your lives and sharing with you what is happening in mine. I will miss our shared worship and even the meetings that keep us connected. At the same time, I am looking forward to some quiet time, time for reflection, as well as inspirational time at conferences. And of course I’ll be taking a little bit of summer vacation with my family as well.
Although I will not be worshiping with you, I will be in worship. I will visit other congregations, filling my spirit from a variety of wells. I encourage you to be in worship also. Summer is a slow time in terms of church responsibilities, but we still need the strength that comes from gathering together in worship—praying, singing, and focusing on the mystery of God. Plus, your fellow church members will be speaking and they need your support. So I ask you to commit to being faithful in your attendance and giving so that the ministry of the church will continue.
You will be in my thoughts and prayers while I am away. I will take the church directory with me on my travels and will pray for every one of you by name. I will lift you to God and trust you to God’s care. And I will return rejuvenated for the exciting ministry God has in store for us in the days to come.
Peace and Blessings,
SABBATICAL Q & A
How long is sabbatical?
Sabbatical agreements vary by church, but typically they are given after four to six years of service. Our agreement with our senior pastor is for a three-month sabbatical after every five years of service.
Has our senior pastor been here five years already?
Not quite. Her anniversary date is in November, but obviously that is not a good time of year for our senior pastor to be away. We agreed when we called her that her first sabbatical could take place the summer before her 5th anniversary so that it would occur at a better time for the church, but without her needing to work nine years between sabbaticals. (Her last sabbatical with her former church was 3 years before she came to us, so 8 years ago now). To balance her getting sabbatical a few months early this time, her next sabbatical will be offered after her 10th anniversary, meaning a six year gap between the two.
Does the pastor get paid during sabbatical?
Yes. The concept of sabbatical implies that the person is paid for this time away; otherwise pastors could not afford to take sabbatical.
Is this merely an extended vacation?
No. There is certainly time for rest, and the pastor may add vacation time to the sabbatical period, but sabbatical is for spiritual renewal and rejuvenation.
Who does the pastor’s job while she is away?
A variety of people will be filling different roles. Members of our congregation will take turns preaching. Jill Saxby will be our worship coordinator. Bob Morse will be available for funerals, and Peter Foss will handle hospital and homebound visitation.
Will the pastor still be around and available to me?
Yes and no. Our pastor’s plan includes some travel so she will be in and out of town throughout the summer. However, she is not available either professionally or personally. Sabbatical time is a release from all responsibilities, particularly the care of the congregation. If the pastor maintains contact, she will naturally be involved in ministry and will not get the rest she needs. However, if you see her at the grocery store, you don’t need to hide! Feel free to say hello!
But what if I have an emergency?
If you are in the hospital or need other care, call the church office on weekday mornings to let us know. Basic administrative questions can be addressed to our business manager, Nancy Irving. For other church-related matters contact our Moderator, Ron Bennett. He will take concerns to the Ministry Council as needed. If a large crisis arrives in the life of the church, Ron and Nancy will make the decision together whether our senior pastor is to be called.
What will our pastor be doing with her sabbatical?
Cindy will be attending two conferences and participating in two retreats, plus worshiping in a variety of churches and catching up on reading. She also will be working on a Dream Initiative project that she hasn’t had time during her regular schedule to complete.
Will our pastor definitely be coming back?
Absolutely. The Terms of Call for our senior pastor state an expectation that the pastor will continue in the role for at least one year after returning.
What are the dates of our pastor’s sabbatical?
Pastor Cindy’s sabbatical will begin on May 14. She will return to the office on August 28, which is three months of sabbatical and two weeks of vacation.
Will we hear about her sabbatical when she returns?
We will hear all about our pastor’s sabbatical during worship on her first Sunday back.