Tuesday, January 26, 2016

February Newsletter -- Sabbatical Update

As some may remember, I will be on Sabbatical from the Victoria Day weekend (Sunday May 22 – 4 days before the 15th anniversary of my ordination) until Labour Day (September 5). The M&P Committee and I have been in discussion about the plans for this time and I thought it was time to give you all an update.

Sabbatical leaves in the United Church are intended to meet three goals. One is a time of rest/relaxation. A second is a piece of spiritual nourishment. The third is some form of academic stimulation. It is expected that the activities during the leave will relate to the practise of ministry within the congregation and that there will be some form of reporting back on learnings/experiences.

Many people plan a variety of activities and travels for their sabbatical. This works great when you don't have 4 children and a larger budget. So I am doing something different.

My plan is to do a lot of reading. Earlier this month I sat down and started building a reading list. Now I have to cull the list to a more manageable size. My plan is that for the reporting back aspect I will do an annotated bibliography of what I read. While this will be a document I can share in the fall it will also likely be posted online as I finish and comment on each book.

This reading will primarily be in two topic areas. The first is congregational and community development. This is a topic that has been talked at and around for all the time I have been in Grande Prairie. The half-time position that was in the 2009 JNAC report was largely intended to be doing this type of work. Since the position is not likely to become a reality in the near future it seems incumbent on me to develop some knowledge in the area as we continue to plot our path into the future. In addition to a list of books on this topic I have also started looking for some TED talk videos that relate and colleagues have given me some websites to explore.

The other topic area is going to be some reading in Pastoral Care. I have done little reading in this area since finishing seminary 15 years ago and thought it worthwhile to refresh myself and continue to develop a theology of Pastoral Care. It is my belief that everything we do as a church community has a Pastoral Care side to it, and also that everyone in the congregation is a part of this work. My proposed reading includes books talking about spiritual parenting and about working with older folk – the whole gamut of life. Oh and I just thought of another one to add to the list (a thought which helps explain why the list is already too long)!

A third area of reading, on the strong advice of the M&P committee will be “fun reading”. We learn best when a variety of sides of life are stimulated. When I was on internship we were required to read (and report on) at least one novel, in part to keep a bit of fun reading in our lives but also because good fiction also helps us understand life in a different way.

From the very beginning of the planning process M&P and I have been clear that part of the plan for the sabbatical time was to be family time. This consideration, as well as the rhythms of congregational life. Was a big part of why the leave is happening in the summer. Patty and I have started to talk about what that time might look like. A few years ago we had thought of going to Naramata for a week but unfortunately that is no longer an option.

In terms of the spiritual nurture, I am thinking of doing a retreat at a retreat house in St. Albert. If I can make contact with a spiritual director and come to an arrangement this will be a guided retreat. I last did this the year Miriam was born and found it very refreshing. 10 years later it is probably time for another one.

Oh and there is one last thing (and the fact I almost forgot to include it may show why it is important that it is part of the plan). With the support of M&P and the congregation I am trying to be intentional about getting more exercise. And so I will need to build into the plan not only time for reading but also time several times a week for getting exercise. If it works I might have to buy new clothes!!! (Unlikely but possible)

Obviously there are still details to be worked out. Like choosing a place to read. And setting a goal of how many books to complete. And probably a few others. But that is the plan thus far. More details to follow!


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