1a: the seventh day of the week observed from Friday evening to Saturday evening as a day of rest and worship by Jews and some Christians
b : Sunday observed among Christians as a day of rest and worship
2: a time of rest
One of the things that distinguishes those who practice religion from those who see themselves as primarily spiritual is that those of us in the Abrahamic traditions observe Sabbath. One day a week we take a break from work, technology, routine obligations to rest. We rest so that we can focus on our relationship with God and each other. Sabbath is a taste of heaven, in Jewish tradition. For Christians, it is the eighth day, a weekly observance of new creation.
Among academics and within the Church it is also recognized that in order for leaders to be creative and fresh, they need time away from their regular duties so that they can rest, reflect and think, apart from the daily rhythm of their work. This time away is called a sabbatical. Webster defines it this way:
1: of or relating to a sabbatical year
2: of or relating to the sabbath.
Typically, faculty get time away every seven years to study, to write, to reflect, to experience their disciplines in new ways. They come back to their teaching refreshed, with new ideas and insights.
In the Episcopal Church, it is best practice for vestries to make provisions for their rectors to take a similar break every seven years. These sabbaticals are budgeted for by the parish and the rector receives full pay while away. Vestries include the terms of the sabbatical in the covenant they make with their rector in the work agreement. The Diocese of Texas believes so strongly in this practice that they make $7000 available to each parish to support them in offering this benefit to their clergy.
This is my seventh year as rector of St. Stephen’s. I have been granted a sabbatical by the Vestry which will last for three months. Beginning in September and continuing through November, I will be away from St. Stephen’s for a time of Sabbath refreshment and reflection. I do not have a specific project I will be working on during this time. The Vestry has invited me to respond to our good Lord’s leading during this time and not to expect a “deliverable” of myself. I think they are wise…and know me well!
I recognize what an utter privilege it is to have this kind of time away. Many of us have no job, let alone one which will allow paid leave for education and reflection. I deeply appreciate this opportunity and will cherish the time as your investment in me and our shared ministry.
I will be sharing more along the way.