After five years at my current church, I will officially earn a five-week sabbatical. After admittedly anticipating this pretty much since I signed my call agreement, that anniversary is only a few more months off.
While this time is still just under a year away (I'm planning for May 2010), now is the time to be laying out the plans for the church while I'm gone: arrangements for preaching and pastoral coverage, thoroughly communicating to the congregation that this is happening, why pastors get sabbaticals, etc. I imagine some questioning and hesitation about the whole thing, but I'm not overly concerned about that.
Five weeks does not allow for the same things that a two- or three-month stint would, but I've been thinking for years about the possibilities that this time will afford. I've thought about visiting various churches that fall under the emerging/emergent banner and just soak in their weekly activities, but that was at the height of my immersion in that stuff and my own thinking has shifted. I've thought about trips to partner churches in Ghana or another mission trip to New Orleans. That was all before Coffeeson arrived, and he'll still be such a young age next year that making family time a priority seems like a very good idea. Plus I was never really married to any of the aforementioned ideas...I've had such a long time to think about this that I can easily talk myself out of things that I lose interest in.
Well, now that this time is truly on the radar (I was able to write it in my new desk calendar and everything), I've finally settled on a theme: creativity in ministry. An alternative title might be spiritual creativity. As long as the word "creativity" is in there, we're good.
I've realized lately that I've been doing many of the same things at this church for four and a half years. I've coordinated the same basic outlines to special worship services such as Ash Wednesday and Maundy Thursday, run the same format for Bible study, and so on. And I've started to wonder whether I do things the way I do because they work and because others have found meaning in them, or because I haven't been able to see other possibilities for them. So I'm hoping that this time away will allow me to cultivate or to re-discover more of a creative eye for those kinds of things as I continue to answer this call to help others mark where God is in their lives.
That's partially why I decided on May 2010. That's when the Festival of Homiletics is always held. I've never been able to go, and I think that event will help cultivate what I'm after. That'll be my "centerpiece," if you will.
I'm looking forward to some playtime, too. See the above pic for one possibility.
This is still relatively far off. But I imagine that it'll get a mention here and there over the next few months, and then as it looms ever larger on the horizon I'll share more detailed plans. I'm thankful for this possibility, and hope to make the most of it.