Tuesday, May 28, 2013


In March, I presented a sabbatical plan to the church Board. My call agreement (or, in non-church speak, “contract”) allows for a two-month sabbatical every five years. To all our shock, I’ve actually been here that long, or will have been this August 3. But I thought it best to go before fall. They agreed, and approved the plan.

Since then, some of you have asked about it, so here’s the scoop. First, the primary goals of sabbaticals in general are rest, reconnection and time away. Every week, in fact, God hopes we’ll do some of that in our own lives- take a Sabbath. Because we’re created for more than work. Our spirits need rest. And in the larger rhythm of my job as pastor, I’m afforded an occasional, longer-lasting Sabbath/sabbatical period. I wish, in fact, every working person could do this; get away and recharge. I think society would see increased productivity, happiness, job satisfaction. Modern America has a dysfunctional relationship with work, after all. Rest isn’t weakness; it’s power.

Anyway, pastoral sabbaticals usually include more than rest, particularly for younger ministers like me. It’s hoped we’d use this opportunity for some unique project. In the weekly rush from sermon to sermon, I don’t always have time to discover and fully develop new ideas. On Sabbatical, though, I won’t check emails, answer calls or visit hospitals. Instead, I’ll pull forward thoughts I’ve put on the back burner, but still consider valuable for our church and its ministry.

So what are those thoughts, that project, and how will I pursue it? Well, to be specific, I’ll be gone for eight weeks- July 14 through September 7. For the first week, I’ll be in Orlando with Tabitha attending our denomination’s bi-annual General Assembly. A colleague, Rebecca Garner, will preach for you that day, along with once more in August. Hayden Kvamme, our Spring Intern, will preach twice over that time, Tabitha three times. I’m still looking for one more- August 11- send me any suggestions. So we’ll be covered while I’m gone. It’ll be an exciting break for you too!

Once I return from Florida, I leave again, almost immediately, by myself this time. I’ll fly to Istanbul, Turkey then onto Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina, where I’ll live for four weeks. I hope to explore the city, wander the countryside, visit religious sites and meet new people. I’ll run, and write, and learn as best I can to cook Bosnian food. You see, for many centuries, the lands that now make up this country have been home to multiple religious traditions. Currently, the country’s majority Muslim, but there are strong influences of Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Christianity. In fact, I can’t think of another part of the world who’s dealt with such an interfaith society as long as Bosnia and the surrounding Balkans. Some of that history is bloody, some is wonderful, but it’s deep and old and vast.

And as a pastor who believes the American church needs to change- dramatically- in order to meet the increasingly interfaith reality of our future, I think it’s wise for us to learn from places like Bosnia. We need to know what to avoid, what to encourage, how to work and eat together. Only four weeks of touring and absorbing won’t make me an expert, but it will help me encounter these questions more deeply. Once that’s over, I’ll fly back to Istanbul (another great city with deep interfaith roots) where Tabitha will meet me for nine days of exploring and reuniting. We’ll fly home. I’ll hug Fawkes, work on a couple things, then welcome my parents for a visit. And I’ll be back with you September 8, recharged and rearing to go!

I’ve left several things out in this retelling, so feel free to ask more questions. Still, that’s sufficient as an overview, I think, to help you imagine where I’ll be and why. Remember, this time apart is as much for the church- you!- as it is for me. So, together, may we pause and breathe, wherever in the world we’ll be, reconnecting with our deepest hopes, accepting God’s loving leadership in new ways.

Grace and Peace,


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