When reading about the experiences of pastors on sabbaticals, one of them remarked that the hardest part was not working. The pastor confessed to being addicted to work. Thoughts began to enter her mind, that perhaps the sabbatical was too selfish. She has always been driven by lists of things that need to be done. In her ministry experience, she never felt “done.” To have a dedicated time when re-creation was the only thing on the “to do” list was challenging. She relied on the Spirit to guide her sabbatical time and routine.

In a NY Times editorial of August 28, 2022 Tish Harrison Warren, an Episcopal priest, wrote “Why Pastors are Burning Out.” She quoted a Barna Survey that year which found that 42 % of clergy had considered leaving their calling. She wrote:

 “As a priest who has many friends in ministry, I’ve seen the weary face of burnout with clergy friends across the country. Most pastors enter ministry because they love people and the Gospel and want to offer hope. They recognize that it is a great horror to walk with their church in good times and in bad. But after a few years, pastors are exhausted and discouraged. In the study, the top reported reasons for clergy burnout were the same one’s people in the population at large face: stress, loneliness and political division…”  

It looks like clergy and the faithful share the same stressors of life. As Pr Peter models healthy discipleship in his sabbatical, I have been encouraging everyone to find a way for some holy space of sabbath. Please know you can start anytime—no “should haves” allowed!

The pastor referenced above, who felt guilty for the sabbatical, found help in her prayers. She wrote:

I’ve been using the ancient “Jesus Prayer” as a Breath Prayer while I linger in bed. I’m using it to watch and pray in anticipation of temptations to come during the day:

  • Breathing in slow and deep to receive from God.. Breathing out to let go.
  • Inhaling as I pray, “Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me…”
  • Exhaling as I confess, “…a sinner.”

 I keep repeating this prayer to rest in Christ. Then I change up the words, using the same breathing-prayer pattern or putting my trust in the mercy of Christ and renouncing my sin or fault:

  • “I need your mercy Jesus… I renounce my striving to be productive.
  • “Lord, thank you for your cross… I release to you my vain striving.”
  • “Yes, mercy… No, pride.”

Thank you, Jesus, that Pr Peter is being blessed on a sabbatical—and for the time to re-create my self with your love and grace! That is our prayer today! Amen!

Pr Walter
Interim Lead Pastor