a vibrant and affirmative congregation and ministry
New Bedford, Massachusetts

Sabbatical Chris letter

Dear people of Grace Church,

I am deeply grateful to you for the gift of a sabbatical!

The idea of sabbath – time set aside for restoration – is an important one in Scripture. In Genesis, we read of God resting in the creation story. God commanded the Israelites to observe one day a week for rest and even prescribed a one-year sabbath for the land during a seven-year agricultural cycle. We also see in the gospels how Jesus regularly took time apart from his active ministry for prayer and renewal.

Tied to Jesus’ example, a clergy sabbatical is an intentional time for renewal, reflection, and reaffirmation of vocation. Recognizing the importance of this kind of sabbath for the health and vitality of ministry and congregational life, the Diocese of Massachusetts makes clergy sabbaticals part of the Covenants of Ministry (the agreement between priests and congregations).

The past six years at Grace have been a wonderful time of ministry and relationship building. It has also been a time of significant challenges, all resulting, I believe, in Grace Church being in a better place to continue and grow its mission in the community. Taking a sabbatical now will be a necessary time for me to refresh spiritually, renew focus, spend time with family, and reflect on Grace’s vibrant ministry and gifts from an ‘outside’ perspective (meaning both that the time and distance away from Grace will help me reflect in different ways and that I hope to literally be outside for much of the sabbatical).

With the support of the wardens, vestry, and you, I will embark on a four-month sabbatical, beginning August 27. My first weekend back at Grace will be January 12 and 13. This will be a time for growth through being nourished, renewing perspective, and deepening prayer life. For Grace Church, it is a time to grow as well through carrying forward our ministries and expanding the roles of lay leadership. We are very fortunate to have The Rev. Ran Chase with us throughout these four months for worship and pastoral care.

The majority of the sabbatical will be spent in Ecuador. The focus of my time will be four-fold:

  1. Set aside significant space for silence, reflection, and prayer through daily meditation and hiking;
  2. Read and have conversations intentionally looking at congregational development and possibilities for relationship-building across linguistic and cultural differences;
  3. Renew the family’s bilingualism and broaden our worldviews;
  4. Refresh and strengthen family relationships.

I know that God will lead us through this time – and beyond – into God’s good purposes for us. And I look forward to returning to Grace Church renewed for our next season of ministry together.

Chris +