I’ve been thinking about the pause button ( ⏸ ) over the last couple of months as my vacation and sabbatical time approach. It’s the button that neither completely stops the movie, song, or podcast, nor plays them. It only stops the operation of our devices but keeps the equipment in operating mode. It’s the button we touch to interrupt the song, the movie, the podcast and hold our place in the media until we are ready to pick up where we left off.
That’s how I would describe the vacation and sabbatical I’ll be taking in July and August this summer. I’m pausing my work as your pastor to rest and experience some renewal. I’m stopping my engagement with the ministry of the church, but only for a time, so that I can use part of the Lilly Foundation sabbatical grant we received to spend time with my family. Part of my rewewal plan is time with family without all the other competing parts of my life and work that want my attention. In the grant application, I call them one of my traveling partners. Pausing my ministry allows me to focus on them and the experiences we’ll have together.
My sabbatical is also our church’s sabbatical as well. The entire church is invited to take some time for rest and renewal with me. A sabbatical planning team has planned worship leadership, pastoral care, gatherings at the church, pilgrimage hikes to happen in parallel with my sabbatical so that all of you can benefit from the gift of sabbath time. Joining in these activities is joining me on a sabbatical. That’s what the grant was meant to do, to pause the normal operation of our ministry so that all of us could rest, or at least try some new and different ways of being together. We are a busy church. So much has changed and evolved in our ministry over 11 years together. A little bit of rest would do us all some good so that we can experience God in new ways and ground ourselves again in God’s intentions of work and rest for us all.
It’s important to name that my absence for a time does not mean that the ministry stops. Like the pause button, the operations of the church continue to move forward to prepare for a full return to in-person ministry in September. We want to be ready on September 12 for our worship service and picnic and also on September 19 for the beginning of two worship services and Sunday school. We have two main goals to get to those dates:
- prepare the building for our return in September; and
- prepare the people to return in September.
Fifteen months is a long time to go without the normal upkeep of our space. It’s also a long time to be apart from one another and the regular rhythms of worship, faith formation, fellowship and service. I’m grateful to all the people working on these two goals over the summer, so that we can send the message to everyone who comes our church that we have been expecting them. That message goes to the heart of our core values as a church – Radical Hospitality. People who are hospitable expect that people will be coming and prepare for their arrival with a welcoming space for all.
I hope you will commit yourself to some rest as I take some time to rest this summer. I pause my ministry among you in an anticipation of how good the time away will be for my body, mind, and spirit, but also with some grief as I will miss you as well. I am grateful for all that we share in life and faith together, and I look forward to how a time of pause to rest and renew our connection with God, one another, and the world will energize us to discover what is next in our ministry together.