Keeping a Sabbath day is so important God memorialized it in the 10 Commandments. I wonder how many of us do this and do it well and regularly? I know that clergy are themselves one of the greatest offenders. Sunday is a work day for the clergy. Of course, there are moments of transcendence in worship even for me, moments when the depth of my prayer, the beauty of the music, and the promise of God’s new creation in Christ are able to lift me up. Yet, because we are focused on making sure worship runs smoothly and nourishes God’s people, clergy may have fewer days of actual Sabbath than the average parishioner. Perhaps that is why the Episcopal Church puts such emphasis on clergy sabbaticals and asks every priest and bishop to take a sabbatical every six years.
I am not proud of this statistic, but after 11 years I have yet to take a sabbatical. One was scheduled in 2008 when I received the invitation from the St. Michael’s Vestry to become your rector – and that I certainly do not regret! When I was ordained I took a vow to “pattern my life in accordance with the teachings of Christ, so that I may be a wholesome example to my people.” I take that vow seriously, and I want to encourage you to also take the Sabbath seriously. Interestingly, when we polled the Vestry last month, about a third of them are eligible for sabbatical time in their own jobs. That gives me hope! Now is the time to take my long-postponed time away, and now I want to share with you how I will spend my time.
Prayer and good planning is the key to true refreshment and renewal. I began 18 months ago by reflecting on some key areas of my life and ministry. I reflected that reconciliation has been a key aspect of my ministry and that reconciliation abides in three areas of my life: existential (renewal of relationship between God and me); interpersonal (renewal of my primary family relationships), and global reconciliation (building ministry partnerships).
I want to share with you two highlights from my time away that I believe with benefit my ministry at St. Michael’s now and in the future.
Time in the Taizé
The community was founded in 1940 by Brother Roger Schutz in an area of Burgundy near the ancient Cluny Abbey. Brother Roger welcomed both refugees and German prisoners of war to join and live in a monastic community following WWII. Today, Taizé has become one of the world’s most important sites of Christian pilgrimage. Hoping to influence the next generation to work for reconciliation, the central focus of the Taizé community is on young adults ages 18-30, but other adults are invited to support their work through prayer, bible study, and communal work.
Taizé is has a holy connection for me for two reasons. First, the connection to the devastation of the war in Europe is very close to my family. My father was a Holocaust escapee. My interest in religious reconciliation stems from this very personal link to my family of origin. Secondly, I wish to begin my sabbatical living the slow, ordered life of a monastic community which I believe will help still the “monkey-mind” of work and busy-ness that usually fill my days. St. Michael’s will have an opportunity to be connected with my time in Taizé at the May 20 Evensong. As a parish you will then have an opportunity to experience the music and atmosphere for which Taizé has become internationally famous.
It would be my hope that one day we might consider taking a group of our own young adults to Taizé on pilgrimage.
Time in Kenya
The Diocese of Kansas has had a mission in the Kenyan village of Maai Mahiu for about seven years. What began as strictly a medical mission has expanded to support of the schools, building refugee housing, sanitation and clean water efforts. This last year, St. Michael’s helped fund a baseline survey to discover 3-4 sustainable business models in which we can invest in small businesses for women. Often referred to as women’s micro-finance, what distinguishes our work is the effort to build partnerships between existing women’s groups, and the two Anglican dioceses that border Maai Mahiu. Additionally, we will focus on a savings and loan model which emphasizes Christian ethics in business and encourages local leadership development. For much of the 12 days I am in Kenya I will be meeting with staff members from the offices of the Bishop of Nakuru and Bishop of Thika to facilitate training and funding for the initial enterprise. I am thrilled that three other members of St. Michael’s have felt called to join the trip this year: Jennifer Allen, Bev Wharton, and Vicki Sharp will contribute their gifts to this budding project and will help us keep the momentum going after we return.
The rest of the time I will spend with my husband and family. I also want to do some writing and reflection on the vocational discernment work I helped pioneer at St. Michael’s with our Companions in Discernment. I feel that God is calling me to begin expanding this work of discernment with teens and young adults who long to ask the question, “Does God have a purpose for my life, and how do I know what that is?”
I ask you to hold me in your prayers during this sabbatical time. I imagine at times I will feel lonely and far away. Prayer will help us feel closer.
I will begin my sabbatical on May 2 and will return on Sun., July 15, following General Convention in Indianapolis. You are in good hands with Fr. Bill, Fr. Dennis, and Fr. David With. You are also well-served by your vestry and Sr. Warden, Debbie Kremers.