As many of you know, I announced my plan to take a sabbatical this summer. I’d like to offer some less formal thoughts on the process of sabbatical, the decision to take it now, and what it all means. So here goes.
Being a priest is hard work: emotionally, physically and spiritually. No, it’s not ditch-digging, and I’m not splitting atoms or fighting cancer, but I know it’s taken stuff out of me. Sometimes it beats me up. Sometimes it beats my family up. It is customary for churches to offer their clergy the opportunity to refresh their call to ministry and spiritual centeredness in a time of sabbatical. This is written into letters of agreement like this: ‘Sabbatical time is given, two weeks per year of service, not to be taken after three full years of service’. I began here in September of 2010, so I’m taking some time this summer to step away, unplug from the role of rector of this awesome church, and spend time with myself, God and my family.
Why now? Well, when I started here, I thought I’d do a ten-week sabbatical in the summer of 2015, and another one in 2020. Best laid plans, huh? With the construction of our new building and other staff turnover last year, it wasn’t the time. After all we’ve accomplished over the past five years, I feel as though now is an appropriate time for me to reflect on my ministry here, and to give some hard thought and study to where we can go. I’m not anticipating any Damascus moments, but the future of St. Margaret’s won’t be far from my mind.
Now is also a great time for me to spend some unhindered time with my family. When Allison and I were married, I had been working in Rhode Island for just two months. So in essence, much of our honeymoon was entwined with my first year in a new job. When Allen was just three months old, we moved to Maryland. Now that our kids will be 9 and 6, I look forward to being as present with them as I can be. The clergy life is tough on families. There is a constant temptation to pour all of one’s emotions into the job, leaving nothing for home. This sabbatical will be a good time for me to take stock of how I balance those two parts of my life, and become refreshed for continued service at St. Margaret’s.
What are you going to get out of this? I hope you get a pastor who is recharged for another terrific year of ministry. I hope lay leaders continue to step forward to take their places in being the church. I have full confidence that this time away will be good for me and for you: spiritually, emotionally, and physically. I’m going to reconnect with friends, spend time with families, play some golf and read some books. And pray. I’ll always be praying. For you!
The Rev. Peter W. Mayer is the Rector of St. Margaret's Church in Annapolis, MD. He's a soccer dad, hockey fan, Pearl Jam fanatic, soup lover, cat owner, and one who welcomes all to the altar every Sunday no matter where they are on their faith journey.