Sabbatical is a gift few receive. As far as I can tell, ministers and professors might be the last professionals who can take sabbaticals. In both cases sabbaticals are opportunities to step back, study or write, and get perspective on the work we do. In the last ten years I have taken three months of sabbatical. That might sound like a lot, but the generous allowance for ministers in our church is a month per year of service. So starting in June I will take a couple weeks of vacation and then a sabbatical from July through December. Sabbatical comes from the idea of “Sabbath” or rest. It always carries a tension between how much rest and how much work is to be done. I think I have found a good balance in my plan. I have been accepted and will take part in the Resident Fellow program at Harvard Divinity School. The fellowship is designed to give me the widest berth possible and most exposure to Harvard I desire and to put me in the way of learning opportunities I might not have otherwise. I plan to do something that scares me academically and to nurture my soul while trying to learn as much as I can about non-profit practice and leadership. To put it plainly, Harvard is my oyster, and I plan to immerse in learning and reflection. My family is coming with me to Boston also, as we see this as an adventure we can have together. My teenagers will attend Brookline schools for the fall semester, Marianne has a painting studio lined up to work in and will refresh her painting with a new landscape, and we will take advantage of opportunities for travel, rest, family proximity, and learning.
Many of you have asked me how we will cover my absence and if I am coming back, and the answer to both questions is, “Of course!” Not only am I contractually obligated to return for a year after sabbatical, I wouldn’t dream of stepping away from the church and people I love. The coverage plan includes some opportunities for you also. We have some guest preachers who will spend a week with you and do some teaching mid-week, and we are contracting with a part-time sabbatical minister to cover all of the period of time during Rev. Dana’s parental leave. We also have a communication triage plan for my staff and the Board leaders to be in touch with me as needed, and I have provided my priorities to Rev. White who will act as Senior Minister with the Board of Trustees and staff while I am gone.
My last Sunday with you this year will be June 11, and I am excited to announce that my book, Faith for the Unbeliever, is coming out in time for my departure, so stay tuned for an invitation to a book release event. I look forward to my last few weeks with you before setting out on this new adventure called sabbatical. And I encourage you to follow my lead and consider how “Sabbath” can renew your life and family in the months ahead.