This Sunday my family and I embark on our family vacation which will take us to the eastern part of the United States where I will begin my three month sabbatical. As I prepare to step away from my pastoral position at Trinity for a time, let me share with you two things: what a pastoral sabbatical is, and specifically how I plan to use mine.
What is a pastoral sabbatical?
It is an intentional time away from the people and routine of one's local congregation in order to recalibrate one's spiritual perspective, rest one's body, reinvigorate one's mind and renew one's family relationships. A sabbatical provides a pastor a period of disengagement to remind him that he is a person, not just a pastor; that he is married to his wife, not the church; that he has a lot to learn from wise teachers from elsewhere, not just from the books on his study shelves. A sabbatical is a gift to a pastor, but it is also a gift to the congregation he serves, for it reminds them that their greatest need is not their pastor but Christ.
What am I planning for my sabbatical?
In July I will be at Reformed Theological Seminary in Charlotte, North Carolina taking two classes, one on church leadership and one on the theology of Jonathan Edwards. After I return I will work hard to finish my reading assignments and complete assigned research papers - hopefully by early August.
2. Time with family
After I complete my schoolwork, I plan to do a number of things in August and September with my family. They include a Cub Scout family camp in Minnesota, rebuilding and painting our fence with Carson and Evan, taking Terri to a pastoral couples retreat center in Wisconsin for a week, reading lots of stories, taking lots of bike rides and spending a few days alone with our boys while Terri has the opportunity to get away by herself for awhile.
3. Time alone with God, the Bible and my books
I will likely take a few days at Assumption Abbey in Richardton to pray, read and write. I may also do that at a friend's cabin. Though I need to do some reading to get ready for my Proverbs sermon series, most of my study will involve my continuing exploration of several theological topics, continuing to wrestle with Christianity and contemporary culture, a potential writing project I'm thinking of pursuing and enjoying some great works of fiction. I look forward to the chance to spend unhindered time in prayer, and some time practicing the spiritual discipline of just 'being' to the glory of God.
While I'm 'away' you'll still often see me in church and around town. Feel free to ask me how my sabbatical is going, what I'm learning, whether or not I'm resting and how you can be praying for me. I'll be happy to share.
Our other elders are eager to continue ministering to you while I'm 'away'. Vince is going to be preaching a series on I Timothy beginning next Sunday. I'm excited to hear it! He and Doug, Dave and Jay are here to serve you, teach you, pray with you and encourage you any way they can. My time away won't diminish ministry at Trinity at all.
Finally, let me say 'Thank you' for being the kind of congregation that would think to give their pastors an occasional sabbatical away for rest and growth. It reflects your generosity and your Kingdom-focus. All of us Perrys are tremendously grateful for the gift of the next three months.
Grace and peace,