The following letter was emailed out to clergy and churches on Feb. 7:
I want to communicate to you news regarding my sabbatical leave. Two years ago the Conference Board of Directors voted to amend my call as Conference Minister to include the possibility of a sabbatical leave every three years for a period of two months. The Employee Handbook of the Conference stipulates a sabbatical leave of three months after five years so this adjustment was made by a unanimous decision of the Board. I am grateful for the privilege this sabbatical time affords me and I wanted to share with you a few more details about it.
I will be taking a week’s vacation next week (Feb. 13-17). I will then be on sabbatical until my return to the office on April 18th. During my sabbatical leave primary coverage will be provided by Rev. Da Vita D. McCallister, ACM for Leadership and Vitality. In addition to Rev. McCallister providing primary coverage Charlie Kuchenbrod, Executive Associate Conference Minister and Rev. Michael Ciba, Senior Regional Minister will work as the primary leadership team to handle any concerns or issues that would normally be addressed by my office. Cecile Gilson, Executive Assistant to the Conference Minister will work closely with this team to ensure issues and concerns are adequately addressed.
The Connecticut Conference compensation guidelines give guidance regarding sabbaticals: “Sabbatical leave for an extended period of study and renewal is a part of the Authorized Ministers continuing development.” The Missionary Society of Connecticut Employee Handbook states: “The Conference recognizes the value of allowing ordained and program staff to take a sabbatical leave from time to time in order to study and refresh their vocations.”
Merriam Webster provides this perspective: “The History of sabbatical and sabbath: Take a Break”
“We tend to think of sabbatical in academic terms, as a school year free from teaching duties that can be devoted to research, travel, and writing. Traditionally, this occurs every seventh year. Because of this scholarly context, we may easily miss what is hiding in plain sight: that sabbatical is related to Sabbath, which refers to the Biblical day of rest, or the seventh day. We trace the origins of both sabbatical and Sabbath to the Greek word sabbaton. Sabbaton itself traces to the Hebrew word shabbāth, meaning “rest.”
The Old Testament refers to God’s “day of rest” most famously in Genesis, but Sabbath referring to an entire year of rest is mentioned in Leviticus: “Six years you shall sow your field, and six years you shall prune your vineyard, and gather in their yield; but in the seventh year there shall be a sabbath of complete rest for the land, a sabbath for the Lord: you shall not sow your field or prune your vineyard. You shall not reap the aftergrowth of your harvest or gather the grapes of your unpruned vine: it shall be a year of complete rest for the land.” Leviticus 25:3-5 (NRSV)
For this sabbatical leave I will pray and discern around four guiding questions:
- How can judicatories make an impact within their sphere of influence to align their mission and structures with God's activity in the world?
- How might the witness of the church speak to the times in which we find ourselves? What is our vocation as followers of Jesus?
- How can the Conference setting help cultivate excellence in leadership? How can we engage leaders to be grounded in the Gospel faith and to be open to innovation, generative thinking and culturally aware?
- How can local churches and wider church structures engage their communities, the state, the nation and the world in new partnerships and alliances to make the world a more just, loving and compassionate place? How can we gather in new ways and learn from one another?
I have an ambitious reading list to help me attend to these guiding questions. For those of you who might be interested, here is the list:
- Will to Change: Men, Masculinity, and Love - bell hooks
- Tears We Cannot Stop - Michael Eric Dyson
- 7 Levers: Missional Strategies for Conferences - Robert Schnase
- Reorg: How to Get it Right - Stephen Heidari-Robinson, Suzanne Heywood
- Outspoken: Conversations on Church Communication -Tim Schraeder
- Tribal Leadership: Leveraging Natural Groups to Build a Thriving Organization -Dave Logan and John King
- Finite and Infinite Games: a Vision of Life as Play and Possibility-James Carse
- The Art of Convening: Authentic Engagement in Meetings, Gatherings, and Conversations-Craig and Patricia Neal
- Falling Upward-Richard Rohr
- Subversive Jesus -Craig Greenfield
- Pastrix-Nadia Bolz-Weber
- Doing the Math of Mission-Gil Rendle
- Reinventing Organizations-Frederic Laloux
- Switch: How to change things when change is hard-Chip and Dan Heath
- The Great Spiritual Migration-Brian McLaren
In addition to the reading list I will be listening to four “Podcasts”
- On Being
- This American Life
- Harvard Business Review
- Ted Radio Hour
I will keep the Conference in my prayers during this time and I would welcome your prayers as well. It is a privilege to serve among you. May we be carried by the vision of the United Church of Christ: “United in Christ’s love, a just world for all.”
Blessings and peace,