Monday, August 21, 2006

Pagitt Soundbites

I picked up a discounted copy of Doug Pagitt's Church Re-Imagined late last week and have been looking it over. Solomon's Porch sounds like an intriguing place, and if I seriously pursue my sabbatical idea it should be a great learning experience to visit there.

Anyway, a few soundbites:

In a recent staff meeting we talked about the occasional person who doesn't feel "fed" at Solomon's Porch. We mused about the kinds of people who need to be fed--babies, people without use of their hands, people too weak to serve themselves. We concluded that "being fed" ought to be a strange metaphor for what happens at church but that it is sadly appropriate. For it seems that the church has trained Christians to expect someone to give them faith in small, pre-chewed bites they can swallow without significant effort.

To move beyond this passive approach to faith, we've tried to create a community that's more like a potluck: people eat and they also bring something for others. Our belief is built when all of us engage our hopes, dreams, ideas, and understandings with the story of God as it unfolds through history and through us.


It helped that we approached the prospect of living as a creative community with a combination of openness and productive cynicism. There can be a tendency in Christian circles, especially ones that venture into new territory, to complain about how things are. But creativity is providing a new way of living, seeing, hearing, or being, and we were blessed with several people who love the process of seeing a possibility and turning it into something tangible. So we allowed ourselves to look at something with cynical eyes only if we were committed to working on it. We agreed not to gripe about contemporary worship music without undertaking to create music that moved us away from those concerns and into a new way of understanding. We agreed not to whine about the lack of art in churches without determining how and why art would play a role in our community.


scoeyd said...

re: Sabbaticals - w/in UCC, is there a prescribed set of guidelines for a sabbatical? How long is it? Is there a desired "finished product" that comes out of it (book, rested, refocused, recharged?) Required/potential interaction w/an overseer (or someone) that is checking in w/the sabbatical-er :)?

Just wondering - I'm a 30-ish pastor in a denomination & get funny looks from others when I ask these questions. I've been reading your blog for a while & wanted to jump in for some conversation.... And my coffee cup is full right now. :)

Thanks- looking forward to hearing from you.

Jeff Nelson said...

Hey Scoey. Thanks for commenting.

Since the UCC largely pulls from a congregational polity, each church basically determines on its own when the pastor earns a sabbatical: how many years s/he must have served is usually the main criteria. Each church also decides how long the sabbatical is, and usually includes a clause that the pastor needs to remain at the church at least a year afterwards. This is to prevent the pastor from using the time to do Search and Call, which is a waste anyway, IMO. All of this is written into the call agreement before the pastor begins his/her time of service with the church.

Goals for sabbaticals vary as well. The goal that is pretty universal is all three of the Rs that you mentioned: rested, refocused, recharged. Beyond that, what sort of project the pastor takes on is individual. I know a pastor who spent his time (10 weeks) touring European churches. Another pastor spent his time (5 weeks) conducting a rigorous study of Bonhoeffer.

So the guidelines vary from church to church, and then the type of activity is determined by the pastor.