Minister's Monthly Letter
Some years ago the church where I was minister refurbished the worship space. As part of the refurbishment a group of people offered to produce a set of banners. There was a long period of discussion about the themes of the banners – stories from the life of Jesus, the pattern of the church year or something else.
An idea to which the group kept returning was the seven days of creation. There was a problem however - there were only six spaces for banners! Then someone had a brilliant idea – the seventh banner could be in another room used for mid-week communions, prayer meetings and small groups and quiet.
The seventh day of creation has always been different to the vision of the previous six. They are full of creative activity whilst the seventh is about renewal. It is called the Sabbath day from the Greek word for seven. At its best the Sabbath became a day of rest and restoration for God’s people rather than the legal limiting of life which Jesus encountered in his ministry.
The word sabbatical picks up the idea of a time away from normal routine and work to do something new. Strictly a sabbatical is a one year break every seven but it is used more flexibly in everyday speech.
The Methodist Church introduced three month Sabbaticals for ministers more than twenty years. A minister is entitled to a first sabbatical after ten years of work and then every seven. They are encouraged to take a sabbatical in the year it is due though in particular circumstances it can be deferred.
My next Sabbatical is due in the current Methodist year (September 2015 to August 2016) and the current plan is I will be away during the period May to August.
Before you can take a sabbatical you have to submit details of your plans and have them approved by a group in your Methodist District. You are encouraged to get involved in activities for the whole person – mind, body and spirit.
What are my plans? I want to spend time reading and reflecting on John’s gospel for my own understanding but also to develop material I can bring back into the life of the church here in Rustington. Whilst I will be based locally most of the time I am hoping to go to a centre of Christian Pilgrimage for a time of prayer and reflection. Last, but by no means least, I want to get out into the fresh air and so am making plans to walk the whole of the South Downs Way.
Sabbaticals are a tremendous gift to a minister and I would welcome your prayers both as I prepare for my time away and during the sabbatical itself. In the preparation I hope there will be opportunity for us all to consider how a rhythm of activity and renewal can be part of our living a balanced and faithful life
Rev Bob Sneddon