During our most recent semi-annual meeting of the congregation, participants were made aware that planning is underway for Pastor Peter to take a sabbatical in 2022. We’d like to update you and attempt to answer some of the questions you might have.
What is a “Sabbatical?”
Just as we lift up a weekly sabbath as a holy practice for the life of faith, congregations can be strengthened by “providing 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. Renewal periods are not vacations, but times for intentional exploration and reflection, for regaining the enthusiasm and creativity for ministry, for discovering what will make the pastor’s heart sing.” (Clergy Renewal Program, Christian Theological Seminary)
Why is now the time?
“Pastors serve a variety of roles in their privileged position at the center of congregational life: preacher, teacher, spiritual guide, pastoral visitor, friend, confidant. The responsibilities are continual, and the pace and demands of parish life can be relentless, often leaving even the most dedicated pastors recognizing the need to replenish their own spiritual reservoirs to regain energy and strength for their ministry.” (CRP, CTS)
Following the guidance of the ELCA and the St. Paul Area Synod, the Personnel Committee adopted a policy that “after every 5 years of service in a current call, a pastor be given a three-month sabbatical with full pay. The pastor would be expected to return to the present call for at least one year following the sabbatical.” Pastor Peter began his work among us on April 1, 2016. The Personnel Committee encouraged Pastor Peter to begin planning for a sabbatical this past January and for a time following his 5th anniversary. In April, the congregation submitted a funding request to the Lily Foundation’s Clergy Renewal Program (see update below).
When will Pastor Peter’s Sabbatical begin and end?
Sometime during the 2022 calendar year. As of now, we plan to bless Pastor Peter during worship as he begins his sabbatical on April 24, 2022, the Sunday following next Easter. He would return after 13 weeks away and we would welcome him back on Sunday, July 31, 2022. A variety of factors (Covid-19, family considerations, etc.) may change this timeline.
Who will cover Pastor Peter’s responsibilities during his absence?
The timing is intentionally designed to occur during the time of year when programmatic responsibilities are lighter. With advance planning, we hope to support Pastor Betsy and the other staff with a part-time interim pastor, primarily focused on worship leadership and some of the other on-going ministries. The synod will assist in identifying a candidate to serve us in this capacity.
What will Pastor Peter’s Sabbatical include?
“Life-giving experiences—strengthening relationships, renewing a sense of call, finding joy and purpose in a simplified life, traveling to new lands and unfamiliar territories—are common themes of these renewal times.” (CRP, CTS)
The centerpiece of Pastor Peter’s plan is to walk the “Camino de Santiago,” an ancient route across northern Spain, following the path of Saint James as he brought Christianity to this part of Europe. This is a 500-mile pilgrimage from village to village, beginning on the French border in the Pyrenees and culminating in the city of Santiago de Compostela on the west coast of Spain. It takes about 5 weeks to make this entire journey, averaging about 15 miles each day. Each year, thousands of pilgrims from around the world make this trip. The hopes are that Pastor Peter’s wife Anne will be able to join him on this trek.
In addition to the pilgrimage in Spain, Anne & Peter plan to also spend some time in Germany, revisiting the variety of places he lived as a child and reconnecting with old friends and even some family. Once back in the US, Peter plans to spend time at both his Minnesota family lake home and returning to the mountains of Montana, two places where he can most easily reconnect with his core being. A variety of related activities are in consideration.
What became of the grant application submitted to the Clergy Renewal Program?
Unfortunately, we recently learned that our grant submission was not selected for funding. The high volume of worthwhile proposals submitted this year precluded our congregation’s request. Application may be made again in the future should Pastor Peter elect to postpone for another year or in the event another pastor would like to apply. As funding for the Interim Pastor was also included in our request (and projected in our 2021-22 budget), the congregational leadership will be working on another funding plan.
If you have funding suggestions or any other questions not addressed here, please contact Pastor Peter.