Voices: Reconnected, Reclaimed, Renewed
More about the 2017 sabbatical for Pastor Matt… with an EXCITING announcement!
(This article originally appeared in the October 2016 issue of The Carillon, our monthly newsletter)
It’s almost hard to believe it, but it’s been 6 years ago this month that our congregation voted to call Pastor Matt as our senior minister. That means the opportunity for Pastor Matt to take a sabbatical leave will soon be upon us. So here’s some information you may be wondering…
What’s a sabbatical?
In this university-dominated community, many of us are familiar with the concept of sabbatical leaves, but not everyone. At its most basic, sabbatical—related to the concept of ‘sabbath’—is a break: a break from the routine, day-in and day-out responsibilities of one’s role in order to rest and in order to address to other aspects of one’s role. For people in the academic world, sabbaticals often provide the opportunity to attend to research or writing work that is hard to fully attend to amidst teaching and administrative responsibilities.
Clergy sabbaticals can include research, but more often clergy use sabbaticals to attend to other kinds of professional development and/or personal renewal. As the Lilly Endowment’s Clergy Renewal Program puts it, clergy sabbaticals ideally “provide opportunities for pastors to step away briefly from the persistent obligations of daily parish life and to engage in a period of renewal and reflection … times for intentional exploration and reflection, for regaining the enthusiasm and creativity for ministry, for discovering what will make the pastor’s heart sing.” The level of around-the-clock personal, emotional, and relational investment that professional ministry demands from a pastor makes the opportunity for sabbatical critically important for a pastor’s ability to remain healthy and strong in ministry over the long-haul.
What sort of sabbatical does Pastor Matt get? Do we have to ‘approve’ anything about it?
The provision of sabbatical was made by our congregation in Pastor Matt’s call agreement (contract) back when he first began here at SCC, so there’s no further “approval” or authorization needed. His call agreement provides for a 4?month sabbatical leave after 6 years of service.
When will Pastor Matt be taking the sabbatical?
Although Pastor Matt would be eligible to begin a sabbatical as early as January 3, 2017, for a variety of reasons (related to both our congregation’s life and what he’s hoping to do during the time), he is waiting until the fall, planning to be away September through December 2017.
What are the financial implications for the church?
For a sabbatical leave, we are responsible for continuing to provide Pastor Matt’s compensation as usual, and we are also responsible for any costs we incur for substitute staffing or other arrangements we decide to make for coverage during the time Pastor Matt is away. Pastor Matt is responsible for paying for, or identifying other funding sources for, whatever activities he does during his time away.
But wait, didn’t the top of this article say “an EXCITING announcement”?
Yes, it did.
So, what is it?!
We, the church, have been selected to receive a sabbatical grant from the Lilly Endowment’s Clergy Renewal Program for 2017. The grant will cover Pastor Matt’s activities during the sabbatical, and it will provide the church with $15,000 toward our costs for substitute staffing and activities.
Wow, that’s fantastic! How did this come about?
Earlier this year, Pastor Matt brought to the attention of the Governing Board the Lilly Endowment’s program for clergy sabbatical grants. A team from the Board and from Pastor Matt’s pastoral relations team—Jaime Lang-Rodean, Tina Huey, Stacy Malecki, Laurie Brookes, and Mark Roy—worked with Pastor Matt to prepare our congregation’s application for the grant. The application included a proposed a theme to Pastor Matt’s renewal time and an extensive set of plans for Matt around that theme. It also identified some ways our congregation can engage with the sabbatical theme, and proposed plans for staff coverage while Pastor Matt is away.
So what’s the sabbatical theme, and what will Pastor Matt do while away?
The renewal time is themed around “Voices: Reconnected, Reclaimed, Renewed”. As we wrote in our congregation’s application, “Pastor Matt will have the opportunity for renewal through rest and reconnection to ‘voices’ that
inform his personal and vocational identity, while at the same time, our congregation will work on reclaiming some of its own ‘voice’ in testimony and faith proclamation.”
For Matt’s renewal, we specifically named four such ‘voices’ for renewal: rest, Spirit, heritage, and music. Over the course of the 4-month sabbatical, approximately 40% of the time is dedicated to plain ol’ time-off, to attend to the voice of rest. He will take two intentional spiritual retreats, at centers here in New England, a two-week one near the beginning of the sabbatical and a one-week one near the end. To reconnect with the voice of heritage and the voice of music, Matt will travel to Europe for about 7 weeks in the middle of the sabbatical. He plans to spend time doing “heritage tourism” in four locations connected to our Reformed and Congregationalist heritage: Edinburgh, Scotland (a nod to his own Presbyterian upbringing); eastern England (where Congregationalism / English Puritanism got its start); Wittenberg, Germany (Martin Luther’s early home base, where he infamously sparked the Protestant Reformation by nailing his 95 Theses on the church door); and Geneva, Switzerland (the home of John Calvin, as well as of multiple worldwide ecumenical agencies). Of special note, his time in Wittenberg will be lined up with the celebrations of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation—October 31st, 1517, having been the date Luther supposedly posted his 95 Theses. Finally, to reconnect in a special way with the voice of music, Pastor Matt is working on arranging the opportunity to sing daily as part of a noted choral ensemble during the 3 weeks he’ll be in eastern England, although these plans are still very tentative as of this moment.
What’s our congregation’s connection to the sabbatical theme?
As the team worked on the application, a few connections to the theme of reclaiming and renewing voices emerged as good ways for the congregation to engage while Matt’s away.
The largest connection we envisioned has to do with how we will choose to do substitute staffing. Rather than bring on someone who will simply fill-in for all of the full schedule of preaching and worship leadership responsibilities Matt would normally do, we have proposed identifying a sabbatical supply pastor who would spend a part of their time coaching, cultivating, and developing voices to engage in testimony and proclamation from among our own congregants—a way for us to work on reclaiming and renewing our voices of faith. This substitute staff person would still give primary oversight and do a good bit of preaching and worship leadership, but the sabbatical time gives us, the congregation, an important opportunity to exercise our voices of faith and testimony, too.
The team also envisioned some other specific program tie-ins to the sabbatical themes, particularly around celebrating our Reformed and Congregationalist heritage. We hope to celebrate Reformation Sunday 2017 in a big way, and also provide a couple of other opportunities for learning about and connecting-in with our heritage.
Most of these plans are still at the big picture / outline level. As 2017 proceeds, the team (in consultation with the Governing Board and ministry leaders) will begin fleshing out and firming up these plans.
We’re very excited that we have been selected as a recipient for this widely-respected grant program. Indeed, this award is given to the congregation itself, and it is a celebration of our congregation, and our commitment to health, vitality, and renewal—not only of Pastor Matt. It’s been a rich-and-full 6 years now of his ministry with and among us, and we’re excited for the opportunities that the sabbatical time will provide for both him and for us.