Sabbath Time

by The Rev. Dr. Jason L. Parkin

For many years, there has been a growing awareness that clergy need occasional sabbaticals in order to be rejuvenated and renewed for their ministries. The Diocese of Chicago requires that all rectors have written into their letters of call a provision for sabbath time, that they might grow in their relationship with God, engage new learning or experience, and be nourished emotionally and spiritually. My letter of call from Holy Comforter provides for a sabbatical every five years, with three weeks of sabbath time accrued for every year served. Having now been at Holy Comforter for six years, I am eligible for 18 weeks of sabbatical, but will not be taking anywhere near that much time away from the parish.

There are two schools of thought about clergy sabbaticals. The first is that the cleric should do something wholly unrelated to ministry and the Church: trekking in Wyoming, taking a cooking class in Florence, joining a community choir or theater group, learning how to sail, and so on. The other school proposes that sabbaticals should contain at least some time devoted to study or research or experiences specifically connected to parish ministry. I am opting largely for the latter model. Although specifics of my time away are not yet completely set, I will be going on sabbatical in two stages, first for about three weeks in June, and then again for a spell in July. During the June segment, I plan to visit significant churches in suburbs of Northern and Northeastern cities-in other words, congregations parallel to Holy Comforter in size, budget, and/or program vitality-to learn from clergy, music directors, lay leaders, and other significant people what approaches to ministry, liturgy, fellowship, and other areas are working (or, conversely, not working) in bringing about growth and new life. I will be visiting congregations outside Boston, New York City, Philadelphia, Cleveland, and Detroit, and hope eventually to go to Milwaukee and Minneapolis-St. Paul. During the second segment of the sabbatical, I plan to spend more time than is usually available in prayer and holy reading (as well as escapist reading!) I plan to work in the Rectory garden. I plan to reflect on my ministry and where I see Holy Comforter leaning in the years to come. I hope to catch up on long conversations with old seminary friends and get more exercise than I currently do, as well as, perhaps, to catch more Cubs games than I have the last few years. Please look to future editions of The Dove for more information as it unfolds.

In my absence, Charlie Wise, the Senior Warden, will be the "ecclesiastical authority" for matters involving the Vestry and the leadership and governance of the parish, and Chris Hardman, Heath Howe, and George Hull will be in charge of pastoral and liturgical concerns. In other words, the parish will be in extraordinarily good and capable hands.

I am grateful to you, the people of Holy Comforter, for this opportunity to be renewed in body, mind and spirit. I look forward to this "time apart," even as I also eagerly anticipate returning to my parish family. And I hope that you will keep me in your prayers, as you will constantly be in mine.

Fr. Jason Parkin