This FAQ has been prepared by the vestry for the community at All Saints Parish to share information about our Rector’s sabbatical which will run from 19 May 2019 until 8 September 2019, and what our role will be in his absence.
What is a sabbatical?
The word sabbatical has its roots in the biblical concept of Sabbath (“to rest” or “to cease”). The Sabbath is sacred time, during which God’s people rest from labor — not only for the sake of rejuvenation, but for the sake of deepening our experience of God’s active presence in our lives. The Sabbath is meant to be time with God, and without distractions. One of the Ten Commandments is “to remember the Sabbath and keep it holy,” a reminder from God that rest is essential to our lives and work.
A sabbatical leave, therefore, is a time for our priest to rest, disengage, study, reflect and travel in order to return to minister among us refreshed and renewed in body, mind and spirit.
Richard’s sabbatical will take place largely during summer vacation, however, a Sabbatical is more than simply a vacation from meetings, property issues, sermons, and pastoral care. It is a time for Richard to receive spiritual nourishment and a renewed vision for priestly ministry. It is a time to deepen his relationship with God, himself, and his family – it is a season of spiritual growth. Since all ministry is shared with the parish community, the congregation also experiences a change of vocational focus while clergy are on sabbatical. In this way, the sabbatical can be a period of deepening spirituality for the whole parish.
Do other clergy go on sabbatical?
Yes, most clergy who have been serving the same congregation for at least 5 years take a sabbatical. Research shows that clergy and congregations are strengthened by clergy sabbaticals. Richard’s covenant of ministry with All Saints specifies that he is eligible to take a sabbatical of three months after every five years. January 2019 marked Richard’s fifth anniversary as our rector, and his ninth year as a priest. This will be his first sabbatical.
How long will Richard be gone?
We will bless Richard and send him on his way at the service on 19 May (Easter 5). He will be gone 16 weeks (12 weeks of Sabbatical time and 4 weeks of vacation time.) He will ease back into the office after Labor Day, and we will welcome him back during worship on Sunday, 8 September.
What will Richard be doing on sabbatical?
With the help of the sabbatical planning team (Brad MacDonald, Anne Sistler, Maggie Shirland, Jennifer Giannini, Rob Hillman, and Ken Coleman) Richard has created a sabbatical based around the theme of pilgrimage. Using the image of a labyrinth (a form of micro-pilgrimage) he has created a set of four circuits for the sabbatical. Each “circuit” of the sabbatical time weaves in elements present in every labyrinth walk: “blessing”, “emptying”, receiving”, and “transforming.” Each circuit contains numerous embedded mini-pilgrimages to places that are holy to Richard. Each circuit focuses on a specific key relationship: with God, with himself, with family and friends, and with the natural world. During that time he will make a retreat with his seminary colleague group (as he does every June), and spend a week in silent retreat in the mountains of Colorado, and then he will spend time visiting family and friends. Richard and Monica will spend a week celebrating their twentieth wedding anniversary in the Berkshires, and in August the whole family will travel to England to visit London, Cornwall, and Canterbury. There are also many walks and hikes in and around Boston he is looking forward to taking.
Who will cover Richard’s responsibilities during this time?
Pastorally, we will be in the capable hands of The Rev. Amy Whitcomb Slemmer and The Rev. Anoma Abeyaratne. Amy will be joining us unofficially some time before Richard departs. On 19 May, Richard will officially “pass the mantle” to her during the service. She will be here approximately 10 hours a week, covering the Saturday and Sunday services, and a few additional hours on one or two days during the week, still to be determined. Anoma will be here on most Sundays in the summer, with a vacation scheduled in August. The outstanding staff, wardens, vestry, and the panoply of incredible lay leaders and volunteers will continue as usual. As per church canons, our wardens Brad MacDonald and Wendy Wheeler will be the key administrators and leaders in Richard’s absence.
Will the church just be in a “holding pattern” while Richard is away?
All of our ministries will continue while Richard is away, and new ones might even be formed. It is important to remember that the sabbatical is a two-way process: while Richard is on his journey of renewal, refreshment and reflection, we will embark on a journey as well – to continue reflection on our ministry, to renew ourselves and to discern God’s will for us.
Who pays for the sabbatical?
All Saints puts aside funds each year in the rector’s sabbatical fund. In addition, Richard and the Sabbatical Planning Team applied for and received a grant from the Lilly Endowment’s National Clergy Renewal Program. This generous grant will pay Amy’s salary and much of Richard’s travel costs, and will also fund parish activities such as the luncheon planned for 12 May, and the welcome back activities planned for 8 September. The sabbatical will not impact the church budget.
Will Richard be in contact with All Saints during his sabbatical?
An important part of a sabbatical is to make a complete break from day to day things. The only people who will be in direct contact with Richard while he is away will be his family. In the unlikely event that some extraordinary news absolutely must be communicated to him, the wardens will notify Amy or Anoma who will be able to contact him. Richard is aware people may be interested in his spiritual journey during his sabbatical, and he looks forward to sharing stories of what he did and learned when he returns in September.
Can I still email, text, or call Richard when he is on sabbatical?
In order for Richard to fully engage in his sabbatical, he cannot be in communication with members of All Saints while he is gone. Amy, and/or Anoma will respond to any emails or calls that require clergy attention. The Wardens will respond to the secular matters of the parish.
What if I bump into Richard around town?
If you happen to see Richard around town, it’s only natural to wave and say “hello”. Please do help him maintain the integrity of his sabbatical, though, by providing him with separation from his pastoral care duties and parish life. In September, he will be eager to catch up on all your news!
What if I see Monica or the kids?
Only Richard is on sabbatical. Monica and the kids plan to continue to attend church and be part of the community as normal when they are in town. Please continue to interact with them as you normally would.
Will Richard be posting updates on social media?
No. In order to fully engage in his sabbatical he will be off social media.
Who do I call for pastoral care, if I have a family or personal crisis?
During the sabbatical, please contact Amy, or Anoma. Both of them are willing to help with a pastoral crisis at any time. Or you can contact any member of our pastoral care team, chaired by Mary Urban-Keary, or a member of the Daughters of the King. As always, if you call the church office, and leave a message on the pastoral care emergency line a clergy person will be in touch as soon as possible.
What if I have a baptism or funeral I need to plan?
During the sabbatical, Amy and or Anoma will be happy to help plan and/or conduct baptisms or funerals as necessary.
How will we get “reacquainted” when Richard returns?
Richard’s first Sunday back will include a “welcome back” liturgy during the service, followed by the Parish Picnic. This will also be a time to say, “thank you,” to Amy. The sabbatical planning committee will design an opportunity for later in the fall, where Richard and members of the congregation can share experiences and evaluate the process.
How can I learn more about Richard’s sabbatical?
Please speak with any member of the sabbatical planning committee if you have questions or concerns: Brad MacDonald, Jennifer Giannini, Rob Hillman, Anne Sistler, or Maggie Shirland.