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Announcing a Springtime Sabbatical

Updated: Sep 20, 2023

I have some exciting news to share with you all. Last spring, the vestry and I applied for a “Clergy Renewal” grant through the Lilly Endowment. These grants provide funding to congregations to allow clergy to step away from pastoral ministry for a brief time to rest, grow, learn, and renew connections to God and loved ones. The grants are very competitive, but since I am due for a sabbatical, I figured it was worth a try. Earlier this week, I learned that my proposal was selected and I will be able to take a fully-funded sabbatical in 2024! I’m feeling surprised, grateful, and a bit overwhelmed, to be honest.


I know this raises lots of questions, so as I share this news with you, I will also attempt to address the big things that may be on your minds. Then, sometime in early 2024, the vestry and I will host a conversation to share with you more details, and answer any lingering questions.


What is a clergy sabbatical?


The word sabbatical has its roots in the biblical concept of Sabbath (“to rest” or “to cease”). One of the Ten Commandments is “to remember the Sabbath and keep it holy,” a reminder from God that rest is essential to our lives and work. Clergy use this time away from the demands of daily ministry to engage in reflection and renewal, offering ministers a carefully considered respite that may include travel, study, rest, prayer and immersive arts and cultural experiences.


Do all clergy go on sabbatical?


Yes, clergy sabbatical is now standard in all Episcopal parishes, and most other denominations too. Congregations report that their pastors come back from sabbatical refreshed and revitalized, allowing for exciting new energy upon returning. Sabbaticals help to drastically reduce clergy burn-out, which is a huge issue, especially after stress of the COVID-19 pandemic.


The Rev. Kevin Lloyd and The Rev. Deacon Valerie Colbert will also take sabbaticals at some point. We are currently planning for Kevin to take a sabbatical during the summer of 2025, and Deacon Valerie will be eligible after she has served for a few more years.


Why take a sabbatical now?


In the Episcopal Diocese of North Carolina, clergy are expected to take sabbatical every 5-7 years. In 2024, I will begin my fourteenth year of ordained ministry, and my seventh year as rector of St. Alban’s. I have never taken a sabbatical before. I do not feel “burned out” at all, and that is exactly why I want to take this sabbatical now. I believe in topping off the gas tank long before the gas light comes on. I don’t ever want to reach the point of being close to empty. This calling is too important to take that risk. I see it as a form of preventative maintenance so that I can continue thriving as your rector for many years to come!


How long is the sabbatical?


My sabbatical will begin the day after Easter Sunday, April 1, 2024. I will return on June 30, 2024. Three months is the minimum length that the Lilly Endowment will fund. This time period will allow me to be present for Holy Week and Easter, and to return in plenty of time to get caught up and plan for the 2024-2025 program year.


What will I do?


The focus of my sabbatical is “rekindling awe” and I have planned a number of experiences designed to spark awe and wonder at God’s majesty. I’ll share more about these plans as the time draws closer! Some of the activities will involve Matt and Chris, but some will not, so you’ll continue to see them most Sunday mornings through the end of the Children’s Choir season. I’ve also built in some unstructured time for things like reading, writing poetry, going on walks, gardening, and more. These are all things I enjoy doing, but often struggle to find time for during the course of a typical week.


What does this mean for St. Alban’s?


St. Alban’s will be in great hands for the time I am away. The Rev. Kevin Lloyd will serve as the lead clergyperson, and the Senior Warden will have official oversight in my absence. And of course, the vestry and staff will be available for any needed support.


Our budget includes some funds for clergy sabbatical costs every year, but thanks to the Lilly Endowment, the parish budget will not be impacted by this sabbatical.


The theme of “rekindling awe” does not just apply to me. Before, during, and after my sabbatical, the congregation will also have opportunities to practice “rekindling awe” with some special surprises we have planned. My hope is that this sabbatical will be an opportunity for all of us to deepen our faith together, even as we are apart for a little while!


While I know that sometimes people feel anxious when the rector is away, we are so fortunate here at St. Alban’s to have Kevin, Valerie, and a strong and dedicated parish staff. All will be well, and I’ll be back before you even have a chance to miss me! And we certainly have plenty around here to keep us busy until April.


I ask for your prayers as the planning process continues, and I will, of course, be praying for you too!


Yours in Christ,

Carmen

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