What will Pastor Brian do (and not do) on Sabbatical? - Part 1
April 26, 2021
On day 1 of my Sabbatical, I’ll fly to Colorado for the Festival of Homiletics – a preaching conference where outstanding preachers offer sermons and studies on texts several times a day for five days.
I know…you’re jealous, right?
For someone who loves preaching and pours himself into it week in and week out – it is a particular gift to receive outstanding preaching for a week straight. Exploring how some of the most highly regarded preachers of our time approach and deliver sermons will feed my spirit and enrich my own practice of preaching.
Inspiring words in an inspiring place. The Festival of Homiletics was originally scheduled for Denver…but was moved online (of course…). Since the plan was to travel to Colorado anyway, I decided to stick with it and headquarter in Estes Park for the first 9 days of Sabbatical. Many of you know - and several of you share - my affinity for Rocky Mountain National Park. When I’m not watching the conference, I can hike and draw life from the wonders of this amazing place. This initial breakaway will feed body, mind, soul and spirit.
Upon return from Colorado, I’ll be sharing in the preparation for and celebration of Evelyn’s graduation from Fishers High School. In addition, time with relatives from both sides of our family will include conversations about how our faith stories have been shared and inspired across the branches of our family tree.
After the graduation festivities, it is time for the centerpiece of the Sabbatical – a little more than 3 weeks in Hawaii. The theme of the Sabbatical proposal to the Lilly Foundation was “Ohana” – the Hawaiian word for “Family”. Our own family will share in a time of rest and enjoyment of all that the “Garden Island” of Kauai has to offer. Guided by a native Hawaiian travel agent, we chose to spend the majority of our time on Kauai as it is considered the most “traditional” of the islands. Kauai will provide plenty of opportunity for me to research and experience the Hawaiian spirit of Ohana as it relates to possibilities for Cross-Generational ministry. Ohana means more to Hawaiians than just the members of one’s household, but relates to the multiple generations of one’s bloodline and community. This cultural sensibility has implications for how we see our “church family”. We are not all related by blood, but drawn into community/family by our faith in Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit. What lessons can a pastor draw from a culture that differs from his own and that of the congregation he serves? We’ll see…
Upon returning from Hawaii, I will spend the remainder of July and August:
- Taking several short treks of 1-3 days to visit other congregations and leaders in our region that are having success in cross-generational ministry. These congregations have been identified by our coaches at Vibrant Faith, who are consulting with me and the congregation throughout the Sabbatical.
- Spending time with family and friends as we prepare for, and eventually transition Evelyn to college.
- Reflecting on and assembling my new insights and learnings to share with the congregation upon my return!
Throughout the journey, I’ll be sharing some thoughts and experiences back to the congregation via video messages. Upon return, we will host several events where I can unpack what I have learned with you. I’ll also collaborate with the Re:New Team and our Vibrant Faith Coaches as we begin to craft our 2-3 year ministry plan for faith formation with every generation.
So…what will I not be doing? The design of a Sabbatical, and of the Clergy Renewal Grant program, is such that this is time when my focus is fully engaged away from the daily ministry of the congregation. It is therefore important to have clear boundaries during these months. It is impossible for any pastor to have one foot (or even a toe) in the congregation and be fully engaged in the purposes of Sabbatical. As such, I will not be available for pastoral duties, including visits, funerals, baptisms or other events. One of the great honors of serving as a pastor is accompanying members of the congregation through the highs and lows of life. I will absolutely miss sharing these aspects of my ministry with you during this time. I know, however, that you will be well served by Pastor Todd and those we have lined up to guide ministry in my absence.
Thank you, once again, for the grace of Sabbatical – I am so excited for all that God will do and renew in my own life, my family – and in this congregation that I love serving!