Dear Christ the Redeemer family,

The first Sunday in May will mark seven years that I will have been privileged to be your rector. In the Scriptures the seventh day is the “Sabbath day of rest,” and that is a wonderful gift of love our heavenly Father has given to his people. For the Old Testament people of Israel he also offered them an even greater gift: every seven years they were to rest, neither to sow their fields nor prune their vineyards; it was a sabbath rest for them and for their beasts and the land. From this practice comes our idea of taking a sabbatical break for rest, refreshment, and study. For this reason the diocese recommends a three-month sabbatical for clergy every seven years.

Which is all to say that I am looking forward to a sabbatical this summer, from May 6-August 17, and I’d like to take this opportunity to share with you a few of the highlights of this opportunity.

First, CTR received a grant to allow me to participate in the 2018 National Clergy Renewal Program. We are one of 148 congregations across the United States selected to participate in this competitive grant program, which is funded by Lilly Endowment Inc., and administered by Christian Theological Seminary in Indianapolis. Established by the Endowment in 2000, the program’s grants allow Christian congregations to support their pastors with the gift of extended time away from their ministerial duties and responsibilities.

The Endowment describes the program this way:

Ministers whose congregations are awarded the grants use their time away from the demands of daily ministry to engage in reflection and renewal. The approach respects the “Sabbath time” concept, offering ministers a carefully considered respite that may include travel, study, rest, immersive arts and cultural experiences, and prayer.

The Rev. Robert Saler, research fellow and director of the Lilly Endowment Clergy Renewal Programs, noted that the National Clergy Renewal Program integrates key attributes of healthy congregations, including a mutual respect for the renewal needs of both ministers and the congregations they serve.

“At a time when leaders are often praised for their pace of innovation and productivity, the National Clergy Renewal Program pays homage to the timeless wisdom embedded in the practice of reflection and renewal,” Saler said.

Second, the Lord’s timing in all of this is, well, so typically spot-on. This summer Cheryl and I are celebrating our twenty-sixth wedding anniversary, an anniversary that is particularly important to us because it marks half of our lives. The generous grant from the Endowment means that we will be taking a trip to Central Europe, primarily so that I can take Cheryl to Budapest. I lived in Budapest in 1991-92, and we managed a long-distance relationship that year. Yes, prior to email and FaceTime and all those digital means of connection! We wrote letters on paper with devices called “pens”.  🙂

In addition to a few other lovely spots, we will also visit Dana and Brandi Bates, two of CTR’s mission partners in Romania, as well as the godparents to our children.

Needless to say, we are very much looking forward to this time together!

Third, during the sabbatical I will studying and reflecting on a few key aspects of churches (local parish or congregation) as relational or family systems. I am excited about this, and grateful for the support Bishop Bill has given in preparing for this, and which Bishop Andrew has affirmed. I am also grateful for Fr. Ray’s expert guidance in putting this focus together.

Last, but important, Fr. Brian will be in charge while I am away. Deacon Scott will be coordinating and handling pastoral care, together with all of our clergy team. Trent Sheppard will be with us, preaching a four-week series in May and June. I am confident you will be well cared for, and I am delightedly grateful for the clergy team I am blessed to lead.

Dear friends, I’m looking forward to the summer, and I am also looking forward to the autumn and coming back to be with you all for a fresh start as we continue along the path to which our Lord Jesus has called us here on Boston’s North Shore.
May Jesus Christ be praised,