I am about to live into a lesson from life. I will be stepping away from pastoral ministry for the next three months to tend to my own soul which I have realized has become weary worn. Not from recent ministry, but in my whole career in ministry I have not paid attention to what breaks my heart. This time away will allow me to find healing for those injuries I have not yet dealt with.
Christ UMC has helped me recognize this need in myself, and you are allowing me to deal with it as well. This time will allow me to work on things undone which have been my own burden to carry. What a sense of grace I feel, and that is hard to comprehend as well. How does one accept the free gift of love undeserved? One totally falls to the ground in humble recognition. That is the Gospel, and you at Christ UMC are showing that to me.
I have for many months now been struggling inwardly, doing ministry things I have done for seventeen years since I was first ordained. Things that were once my gifts are not giving to me anymore, making it almost impossible to ignore in my inner core. So I am trying to pay attention to it, and in the three months I plan on doing different things to address what God is teaching me. I will do this by taking several different retreats to discern God’s voice, but more so just to be in God’s presence with no expectations than to rest and be loved.
This is what the United Methodist Church calls a Spiritual Formation and Renewal Leave. While away I will be participating in some conferences and seminars on spiritual growth AND getting some rest and repair to my own heart (both personally and professionally). Therefore, I will be away from July 3rd through October 3rd taking a Spiritual Formation and Renewal Leave.
A Spiritual Formation and Renewal Leave is unusual because many pastors and churches do not know of such a thing. Many leaders in the denomination are not familiar with it and are only hearing about it now. Therefore, it may initially strike people as odd, frivolous or unnecessary. Because it is not offered in the business world, it may be seen as suspect. And yet, new millennial driven companies like Google and Apple have taken a new approach to the work place to meet the needs of people in a more holistic manner. They don’t want the people who work for them to get to a time they need to get away to be renewed. They are increasingly offering things at the workplace to renew their employees every day.
Here is a list of what Google has on their website to attract people to work:
How we care for Googlers (the people Google)
Support your loved ones - Your family matters to you, so they’re important to us, too. Many of our benefit programs and onsite amenities are aimed at supporting you and your loved ones through life’s various stages—we offer generous parental leave policies, retirement savings plans, death benefits, and much more. In some of our offices, you can even bring your canine family members to work!
Live a healthy life - All Googlers have access to excellent healthcare choices. In some locations, we also offer onsite wellness and healthcare services, including physicians, chiropractic, physical therapy, and massage services. In addition, many of our offices are equipped with on-site fitness centers and classes to save you time and keep you fit. Our wide assortment of on campus cafes and micro kitchens provide nutritious meals and snacks to keep you healthfully energized throughout the day.
Give back - We value giving back to the community just as much as we value the products we create. We match Googlers’ charitable donations and add donations for hours Googlers work as volunteers.
Enjoy quality time - We all need time away from work to recharge, travel, take care of personal stuff, or spend time with family and friends. Take a vacation, volunteer, or flex your workday to meet your personal and business needs—there’s no one-size-fits-all recipe for helping you to be at your best.
Manage your finances - From our highly-rated retirement savings matches to financial advisors and planning services, we offer many resources to help keep you financially fit.
Invest in you- Lifelong learning is inherently Googley. That’s why we offer extensive opportunities for personal and professional development. Whether it’s onsite coding or cooking classes, degree programs, or the guitar lessons you’ve been meaning to take, we’ll support you in doing what you love.
Sound rather utopian to you? Young people today, whom we call Millennials, are redefining every aspect of life (including church as we are aware of) because what they have witnessed in life is often not just to all people, good for all people, or life-giving to all people. They want to change that. They are not going to settle for how things have worked in the past, they are claiming something that God put within all people in the Garden of Eden. A desire to work and care for what has been given to them. A desire to be fruitful in their everyday lives. And being a good steward of everything IS the purpose of life, not a separation from it during work hours.
I wish the church approached life as completely and holistically as Google is.
Isn’t that what Jesus did? He didn’t come to abolish the law, but to fulfill it. He did so by seeing each person he encountered. Living their reality, loving them completely.
Perhaps if the Millennials stay as intent on making the church what God intended it to be, we can trust that when all the cultural wars are over, God will be worshipped and glorified in new and spirit-filled ways, we can relax into and just be.
All this to say, I am weary of soul and mind and I know it. This has not changed my calling as a pastor or my love and trust of God, it simply means that your pastor needs to pay attention to all of the 10 Commandments and act accordingly. That means that I must honor the third commandment as well as the others. But it is all too easily ignored:
8 Remember the sabbath day, and keep it holy. 9 Six days you shall labor and do all your work. 10 But the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God; you shall not do any work—you, your son or your daughter, your male or female slave, your livestock, or the alien resident in your towns. 11 For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but rested the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day and consecrated it.
As a pastor it is very hard to have a sabbath. Sunday is not a pastor’s sabbath, though it is their day of worship, it is also a day of work. Our 21st Century world with smart phones and social media also makes it hard to find a quiet time away. Because we have new technology, we also need new forms of sabbath or we risk missing the blessing and consecration of our own sabbath time, time just to be with God. That is very much my own fault. This does not only apply to me, but to you as well.
This, and more is why I am taking these three months apart. And for every one of you who has said to me, “I need that, too!” I need you to hear yourself and ask is God calling you to form your own sabbath observance as well? It can be an exciting concept if you let it.
In the next three months, I would love for you to explore new forms of soul feeding sabbath you are adopting for yourselves. When I get back, we can compare, share and develop even more ways to get away with God… and just be. Be present, and be loved. Thank you for allowing me time to do this. It is unusual. It doesn’t look like the world. In other words, it is Grace. And I thank you for it. To be at this church at this time, I am truly blessed. And I fall on my knees and give thanks.
- Pastor Jill