The Pastor's Peace - March, 2016
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Have you ever had a moment when you were completely surprised by something, but then directly after your moment of surprise realized that you should have not been surprised at all? Well, I had such a moment at the Annual Meeting in January at the church. It happened right in the middle of my talk to the congregation when I was discussing my plans for the year. I reached the point of talking about my three-month sabbatical this summer, and I saw a great deal of confusion amongst the crowd. I was at first surprised by the confused looks, but then realized that although I had been talking to the consistory for almost a year about this, I had failed to tell the congregation as a whole, thus I should not have been surprised by the inquisitive looks. In fact, you might now have such a look on your face as you read this, especially if you were not at the meeting.

A sabbatical, you say, what is that? Well, there is a longstanding tradition in many Christian denominations that every 7 years that a pastor serves a congregation, they can be granted a sabbatical. Often pastors are not at a church for that length of time, or sometimes they choose not to take it, and so sabbaticals aren’t necessarily something a church sees all that often. It was offered to me as a standard part of the UCC calling agreement when I accepted the call at Beaver Church, and believe it or not, I will have been at the church 8 years come August. I am choosing to take the three-month sabbatical, and there are some important reasons why. The main reason sabbaticals exist is for the renewal of the pastor so that they can serve the congregation better. When you have been a pastor at a single location that long, many things begin to weigh on you, you perhaps get a bit stale, and more importantly one often finds it harder to connect to God in the same way they did before. The sabbatical allows them to reconnect with God, and take some self-care in the process. It has actually been statistically shown that pastors who take sabbaticals have longer and more productive ministries at congregations they serve. This is especially important since over half of ministers burn out and leave the ministry altogether in the first 5 years. Being that I like it here at Beaver Church, and would like to stay for a while, I think it is important that I take the issue seriously for both the congregation and myself.

So, what I will be doing, and what will happen at the church while I am gone? Well, the short answer is that I am training for and will do a 160-mile walking pilgrimage and retreat. While I am gone, Rev. Gail and Rev. Stuart Wells will act as pastors to the church. I am going to hold an information session where I will go over my plans in more detail on March 20th, Palm Sunday. We will have a carry-in that day, and while we fellowship, I will present my plans and answer any questions you have. I hope at least the look on your face is now a bit less perplexed. I also want to thank the church for the opportunity you have given me to serve this church, and I hope to be able to serve it well for many years to come.

Peace and Blessings,
Pastor Bryan