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Sabbatical 2022: What You Need to Know

By May 27, 2022June 3rd, 2022Pastor's Corner

The Board of Elders has approved Jeff’s request for a 3.5 month Sabbatical, a time for deep rest and renewal from May 30 – September 13, 2022. As a Board, we believe this Sabbatical will benefit both our pastor and our people, preparing us for a new chapter in God’s work in our lives and community.

While Jeff is away, we will continue to meet weekly for worship, and to meet needs for the people who make up our community. There is a plan in place to keep our church active, effective and engaged during this time.  Below, we’ve laid out answers to a few of the key questions that may be on your minds.

What is a Sabbatical?

In the Bible’s creation story, we hear that God created the world in 6 days and on the 7th day, he rested. The idea of including times of rest in the rhythm of our lives continues throughout the Bible. Those times of rest are called Sabbath.

A Sabbatical takes its name from the Sabbath. It’s no surprise, then, that a Sabbatical is designated as a time for rest and renewal. It’s an extended period away from work. More than just a vacation, though, it is a time to learn, to grow and to heal from the deep fatigue that can build up over time.

In Mennonite Brethren churches like ours, senior leaders are eligible for a paid Sabbatical every 5 years (or more). Sabbaticals are taken for a minimum of 3 months, and must be approved by the Board.

What does supporting a Sabbatical mean for The Gathering?

There are two key things to know about supporting this Sabbatical:

  1. Sabbatical is not counted as vacation time. Jeff will still have vacation days available to use “recreationally” this year. He won’t “earn” vacation time while he is on Sabbatical, though. That means that this year, he will have about 75% of the vacation time that is usually available to him.
  2. Sabbatical is a paid leave of absence from regular duties. Jeff will continue to be paid throughout the Sabbatical period.

The Board of Elders has also approved some expenses for Jeff to work with a Spiritual Director during his time away and to participate in some spiritual retreats. These funds come from the “conferences” item in The Gathering’s budget, which is designated for professional development.

Why did the Board of Elders approve a Sabbatical at this time?

It’s no secret that the past 2 years have been like nothing we’ve lived through before. We are all tired after months of pandemic restrictions. Jeff is no exception. And, as a pastor, he’s carried an extra load, supporting and encouraging us as we faced stresses we never expected. In part, this Sabbatical is meant simply to be a time to rest after an extended period of work.

That’s even more important, though, because we believe God is calling us to some new work in the months and years ahead. Our whole world is hurting in these days, and we sense God calling us to step into that hurt and change our wider community for the better. We’ll talk about this in the Town Hall on May 29. Jeff needs rest, not just because of the work behind us, but because of the work God’s putting in front of us now.

And Sabbatical offers all of us, as a community, a chance to grow. We are all called to work for God’s kingdom. We all have gifts we can put to use. But sometimes, it’s too easy to leave the work to the pastor. Giving Jeff time to step away from his role gives all of us a chance to grow in our own leadership. It creates space to discover new gifts, and to find our own roles in God’s plan for our church.

We believe this Sabbatical will be good for both our pastor and our people, preparing us for a new chapter in God’s work in our lives and community.

What’s the plan while Jeff is away?

Sunday worship will continue as usual. Our church planting pastor, Dan Chook-Reid will be preaching most Sundays (except when we have a guest speaker), and the music team will be there to help us praise and worship together.

Our church administrator, Kristyn Weatherbee, will be working as usual. She’ll manage all the day-to-day work we count on (even if we don’t always notice), as well as leading special summer ministries like Vacation Bible Camp and The Big Give. Our summer student, Steven Prytulak, will be around, too, so she doesn’t have to do it alone.

Pastoral care is every bit as important as our programs, though. If you need prayer or support from the church, reach out to Susan Peyton and Rebecca Bussey. They will be coordinating the Elders – and others from the church – to provide continued pastoral care while Jeff is away.

Can I still call Jeff when he’s on Sabbatical?

Jeff is a big part of our lives, and we will miss him while he’s away!

We matter to him, too. Because he cares, though, it will be hard for him to rest and seek God’s direction on Sabbatical if he’s continually pulled back into the day-to-day concerns of our community. For that reason, he will not have access to his work emails during Sabbatical.

If you truly need to contact Jeff, you can still reach him by text. Please be mindful, though, that this is a time of rest and renewal for him… and that your Elders and church family would love to be there for you!

Still have questions?

For any additional questions, contact any member of the Board of Elders. We’ll be pleased to help.