Back in the latter part of 2018 and the early part of 2019, I was beginning to feel a need for some time away from my duties as a pastor. I loved (and continue to love) my church! But after almost 30 years in fulltime ministry – and with a lot of changes taking place in my family and the church – I recognized that I was in need of some time to step back from the unique stresses and routines of ministry to refresh my spirit, to evaluate my pastoral practices, and to “center” myself in a way that would allow me to continue serving fruitfully in the years ahead. And so, with the approval of my church family, I assembled a team of friends who helped me develop a proposal for one of the sabbatical grants that is awarded each year by the Clergy Renewal Programs of the Lilly Endowment. After much prayer and planning, we submitted an application. And on August 1 of 2019, we were informed that we had received a grant for the summer of 2020.
In the early months of 2020, my personal preparation and the planning for my congregation’s sabbatical experience were well underway. And then, of course, the coronavirus pandemic struck. The enjoyment of this incredible gift that we had received was postponed…first one year and then two. But we continued to trust that the same God who had inspired our proposal and had provided the grant would also give us the grace gift of seeing our dreams come to fruition. And now, as we enter the summer of 2022, it’s actually happening. Next week, I will begin – and my church family will begin – a prayerfully crafted set of experiences designed to help all of us “Rest, Reflect, and Renew.”
I’ll describe the nature and goal of these experiences in an upcoming post. But for now, I simply want to give thanks to the people and leaders of Calvary Baptist Church, who have valued me and my ministry enough to grant me this time away; to my sabbatical team members, who have prayed and worked with me to turn dream into reality; to my family members, who have patiently walked with me through the process; and to my Lord, whose “grace delayed” is still grace – and who I trust will walk with both me and my church family through the months ahead.