When I was working in my first church, right after seminary, I served as a Director of Christian Education and Youth at Amity Presbyterian Church in Charlotte, NC. Amity was a mid-sized congregation (smaller than BPC) and had a full-time pastor named Bill. I remember when Bill was getting ready to take four weeks of vacation in a row to go on a cross-country road trip with his family that there were a few folks in the congregation who gave off some negative vibes. “If the pastor is going to be gone that long and we have to operate without him, then what will he do when he gets back?!?” one person said. “In my old job, before I retired, if we covered someone’s shift for two weeks, we learned how to do the job without them,” another person said.
“Yikes!” I thought in the moment. "With negative feelings like this in the church, I’m never going to take a long vacation or go on a Sabbatical.” What didn’t strike me (or the person who said it) in the moment, though, was the value of the phrase “. . . we learned how to do the job without them.”
It is true that I am planning to take a Sabbatical, starting in January and that I will be away from BPC for three months. One of the many blessings of this Sabbath time for me and my family will be spending uninterrupted time together in several different settings, having time for rest and renewal. BUT, one of the many blessings of this Sabbath time for you, my church family, is that you will have the opportunity to learn how to do the job of being the church together without me. BPC has had to do this, in some ways, before, during times of interim ministry, but a pastor has always been at the helm during interim times.
It is my hope that the Sabbatical time will be a season of growth for the church as you stretch your own gifts and skills AND as you lean on one another and the Holy Spirit to “learn how to do the job” while the pastor is away. You aren’t (I hope) learning how to do these things so that I won’t have anything to do when I get back. Instead, you are learning how to do these things to build a stronger church family, which will serve you for years to come - whether or not there is a pastor at the helm.
I am so thankful for the strength of our church leadership and for the ways that God is strengthening all of you, even now, for the ministry that lies ahead in the coming months. The Holy Spirit is at work in, among, and through all of you and I am excited to see what the Spirit will do here at BPC.
Grace and Peace,
————Prepare for Worship
This Week: "Not Far From the Kingdom” (Pathways to Generosity - Week 1)
- Read Mark 12:28-34
- Read Psalm 146
- Read or sing Hymn # 203 - “Jesu, Jesu, Fill Us With Your Love”