Two Pastors Relish Sabbatical Time to Re-Charge and Renew

Eyes Open

Submitted by Rev. Amy Pagliarella , Lake Forest First

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Summer sabbatical in Spain

One of the greatest challenges in my ministry is relating to families whose church participation is sporadic; after all, being in church every Sunday is usually part of the pastor’s job. So while on sabbatical last summer, my husband, two boys, and I became a family who “found God in the sunrise.” This was fairly easy to do, given that we spent two months in the stunning Costa Brava region of Spain. I started each day with coffee and meditation in the backyard as I watched the sunrise over the Mediterranean Sea.

I chose not to attend church in Spain – a fairly easy decision, as the local Catholic church worshiped entirely in the Catalan language. But one Sunday, hiking into town, I found myself on the outskirts as church bells called worshippers to mass. Hearing the bells felt like a personal summons, and I ached for church. Standing in the town square in my exercise clothes, church seemed so foreign – a place of unfamiliar ritual and language. And so, like so many others, I passed by the church and instead joined the people shopping, drinking coffee, and enjoying breakfast.

When we returned home, I worshiped in an unfamiliar neighborhood church. I didn’t know the music, the lively passing of the peace was lost on me, and it took all my extroversion to walk into a coffee hour of strangers. For the first time since I started at First Pres seven years ago, I was an outsider in church.

The time away not only opened my eyes to the very real experiences of newcomers, but it allowed me to return rejuvenated and ready to better minister with newcomers and all our families.

Re-Learning that God is the Source

Submitted by Rev. Wayne Myers , Oak Park Fair Oaks
david myersOn my sabbatical this summer, which included trips to Florida, Chautauqua Institution, Colorado, and England, I was able to focus on many areas of my life that had been neglected in the hustle and bustle of my daily role as pastor. The time away was refreshing and rejuvenating. The new insights I gained through lecture and study will influence my preaching and teaching in the coming months. My experiences in England, and especially studying at Oxford, were the highlights of my summer. Would you believe the weather was nicer in England than in Chicago while I was there!

One particular day at Oxford stands out in my experience not because of a profound lecture or a new angle of biblical exegesis, but because I was reminded again what is so very central to Sabbath. I had spent a good amount of time in rest and reflection, in renewing pursuits such as walks on the beach and attending lectures and classes. It was not until Evensong at Christ Church that I felt truly renewed.

I decided not to take the offered lecture on the Norman Conquest and instead attend the Wednesday Evensong in the chapel. Enveloped in majestic surroundings and immersed in the choral evensong I was filled with warmth and light. The choir sang the Magnificat and our small congregation received communion at the rail. I DID nothing. Nothing was asked of me. I simply received. When the final notes of the postlude ended I just sat and smiled. It was hard to leave.

Of all the things I learned on my sabbatical, it was good to re-learn that God is the source of renewal and healing and blessing. I did many things during my time away, but the most important thing I did – as it turned out – was be still and know that the Lord is God. Perhaps that is why sabbaticals are so worthwhile. We are given the time and space to remember that a church should always be a place of sanctuary – a place that allows God to work in and through, and perhaps most importantly, ON, us.

If your church does not have a sabbatical policy, Rev. Myers has offered those interested to contact him at wayne@fairoakspres.org, and he’ll share his church’s version.

This article was originally published on page 11 of the November 2014 Our Common Ministry, the presbytery’s newsletter. Download the complete issue.

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