The eCrozier is going on sabbatical with me for the next 3 months. I may send the eCrozier on a world tour, but I’m not going along. This sabbatical is not a three-month long vacation (although Kelly and I have a week in Nova Scotia planned). I’m not “vacating.” I’m taking a sabbath rest from my episcopate. This will be a 3-month holy day (holiday) for me so that I may rest from my duties and responsibilities.
A sabbatical is counter-cultural in a world where over-functioning is rewarded and keeping up a frenetic pace is seen as a sign of one’s importance and self-worth. It shouldn’t be counter-cultural in the church, but so often it’s seen that way. Some feel they need to justify a sabbatical by making statements like: “I’ll come back from my sabbatical rested and renewed, so then I’ll be able to over-function even more!” Or, “I’ll spend my time on sabbatical solving all the problems of the church, so when I come back, we’ll implement my master plan and it’ll be huge, I tell you, huge!”
I will be engaging in neither scenario when I return. As Parker Palmer wrote: “By surviving passages of doubt and depression on the vocational journey, I have become clear about at least one thing: self-care is never a selfish act – it is simply good stewardship of the only gift I have, the gift I was put on earth to offer others.” I’m neither doubting nor depressed, but I do need this time away for my self-stewardship and for the care of my aging parents. It will be a privilege for me to be with them in this season of their lives.
Part of what I hope my sabbatical will do is break me from some of my own expectations around productivity. Like some, I don’t feel I’m worth much if I don’t accomplish something. So, I’m going to read some books for fun. On some days, I won’t set my alarm clock. I’ll sleep in if the dogs let me. I’m going to write some things I’ve been wanting to write for some time. I may just wonder around the back yard. Who knows? I’m not going to answer emails regularly. The world in which I inhabit, particularly the world of the Diocese of Georgia, can survive if I step away for three months and aren’t around to run things. I don’t need to watch God’s flank (self-importance is such a horrible sin). God got along quite well before I arrived.
Don’t get me wrong, I love the vocation to which God has called me. I’m thankful for the privilege God and the people of this Diocese have given me for the last 6 ½ years. Spiritually, I can sing with the Reverend James Cleveland, that “I don’t feel no ways tired.” But, truthfully, I’m a bit worn down physically and emotionally by the demands of being a bishop. The sabbatical will give me the time and space to get back in shape, so when I return my body and emotions will be hopefully as enlivened as my spirit.
So, see you in late August. By the way, “Save the Date!” Presiding Bishop Michael Curry will be with us in 16 months on September 24, 2017. It’s early and we’re still working on the details, but right now just picture a large tent on a late Sunday afternoon and some good, old-fashioned revival preaching.