Yesterday, John Kaserman shared with everyone that Kasey and I will be taking a sabbatical in August. For those who were here 3 years ago, our vision for 2014 was “Rhythm.” For those who know me and Normandy, getting vision is easy, implementing it is like pulling teeth! Here we are three years later and we are going to practice it in a fairly major way.
During the first part of the year, I began to think about a sabbatical as something I should consider. Then some dear ones close to us confirmed that I, in fact, I do need one. Soon thereafter, I began talking to the elders about it and they gave me the go ahead to start planning.
I am both excited and nervous. Apparently, there is a measure of rest involved (rest is not something I am very good at). Just taking a simple day off has been a learned experience for me. Eugene Peterson said, “If we do not regularly quit work for one day a week, we take ourselves far too seriously.” I guess I am guilty of taking myself and my work far too serious.
The word “sabbatical” comes from “Sabbath”, the day of rest on the seventh day of the week. In the Old Testament, every seven years there was a Sabbath year -- a year of rest for the soil -- and every 50th year was to be a year of Jubilee, also a year of rest for soil. The idea of a pastoral sabbatical goes back to the Middle Ages when the university professors and the doctors of the church were one in the same. The sabbatical, granted every seven years, was an opportunity for these teachers and leaders to simply become students and worshipers for a season.
Ironically enough, it was 7 years ago that we all gathered together at Bryan Street Tavern to announce that we would be starting a church. I began doing specific work in my free time to get the church up and running by January 2012.
Years ago, when thinking about starting Normandy, a friend told me, "church planting will take a chunk of your soul." I have felt the reality of that in the last two years. The transitions in leadership, our journey in foster care, our desire to shepherd people, and our experience seeing people leave the church have all been taxing. However, the good things have been taxing too! The dreaming, the preaching, asking my favorite question: "How does that make you feel?" all have a way of wearing you down emotionally and spiritually.
So, we are going take a sabbatical. We will be out of town trying to be refreshed, to think, to rest, and to play. I am going turn off my phone (at least, I think I am) and leave the church to trustworthy men and women. I imagine in my absence, all of the problems will be solved and the church will enter into a season of unprecedented glory and growth. I am only moderately joking.
Justus Murimi and Mark Heger will be handling the preaching and teaching while I am gone, while Jesse Benavides will be helping with our community groups. And if you have any problems with your life, you can ask Rachel Clarke to solve them!
I am grateful for the opportunity.
Grace and peace,
John & Kasey