My congregation and I are about to embark on the very special experience of “sabbatical.” What is sabbatical, you may ask?
A sabbatical is a time to step back and experience something new. The tradition of sabbatical is grounded in the Bible when God gives these instructions, “Speak to the people of Israel and say to them, When you come into the land that I give you, the land shall keep a Sabbath to the Lord. For six years you shall sow your field, and for six years you shall prune your vineyard and gather in its fruits, but in the seventh year there shall be a Sabbath of solemn rest for the land, a Sabbath to the Lord (Leviticus 25).
God was telling Moses that the Promised Land would need a time of rest and renewal – a sabbatical – to ensure its health and productivity. The word “sabbatical” has the same root as “Sabbath.” We are commanded to take a weekly Sabbath; this time of rest and renewal is a gift from God. (This commandment is probably the one that gets broken most often). We live in a society that values staying busy and multi-tasking and being productive. But God knows that we all need time to rest, breathe, take a step back, and get a different perspective. We all need Sabbath time.
A sabbatical is an extended Sabbath. In our congregation, after six years of ministry, the congregation and minister engage in sabbatical time. We will spend time apart from one another; when we come back together we will have new experiences, insights, and learnings to share with each other.
When I look at my calendar for the coming months, much of it is blank. It offers intentionally unplanned and unstructured time to renew my spirit. I imagine days of reading, biking, kayaking, knitting, and simply sitting outside enjoying God’s creation. During my sabbatical I will also have the chance to visit family and friends – something that is especially sweet after our pandemic isolation. Roger and I will also be traveling to Anchorage Alaska where we will spend some weeks volunteering part-time at a homeless shelter.
It is also sabbatical time for our congregation. They will have the opportunity to learn and grow under the leadership of Danielle Arnett Keller, our substitute minister. Her experience, enthusiasm, and abundant good ideas will provide our congregation new ideas and perspectives.
Sabbatical – like Sabbath – does not last forever. It is meant to be a transformative experience that helps us return to our schedules and responsibilities with renewed energy, fresh enthusiasm and increased knowledge.
I won’t be posting in my blog during my sabbatical – taking a break! – but I’ll let you know what I experienced when I return.