...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 to others. Anytime we can listen to true self and give it the care it requires, we do so not only for ourselves but for the many others whose lives we touch.

Parker J. Palmer, Let Your Life Speak

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Thinking About Sabbaticals, 2

Clergy sabbatical, we hardly knew ye! It's not that we haven't ever heard of them, it's just that we've never known anyone to take one. At least I haven't heard of many UMC clergy doing so.

Popular author and church-planter Wayne Cordiero in Running on Empty chronicles what drove him, literally, to create sabbatical for himself. Faced with a nervous breakdown and never having taken a rest, he talked his doctor's advice down from one year to 3-4 months. Cordiero was battling both severe energy depletion and depression.

The recovery is holistic, even if the signs don't appear to be. Sometimes when people speak of "nervous breakdown," it's code for anxiety disorder, like panic and/or agoraphobia (the fear of having panic attacks). I consider these symptoms warnings that our physical, as well as emotional health, is being compromised and will be damaged further without appropriate action.

The UMC Discipline allows for clergy sabbaticals as tailored between the church and pastor. Here are words from the UMC Book of Discipline, P. 352:

A sabbatical leave should be allowed for a program of study or travel by the conference Board of Ordained Ministry. [Clergy members] in full connection who have been serving in a full-time appointment for six consecutive full-time years....may be granted a sabbatical leave for up to one year. Whenever possible, the compensation level of the last appointment served before the leave should be maintained in the appointment made at the termination of the leave.
This is nice talk allowing sabbaticals to happen, but as far as financial support during the rest, even if the proper channels are followed and the time off is approved, this is not a leave "with pay." Difficulty with funding your sabbatical is the real reason I believe why most full-time clergy never take a rest. Also note that a rest is not necessarily the same as a "study program" mentioned above.

1 comment:

  1. There' a wonderful text found in a song by Twila Paris that says:
    "There is a holy kinship
    You tell me you have known
    But in the rush of serving
    You wonder where it's gone
    I pray you will remember
    A younger heart's desire
    I pray that He will breathe upon
    The embers of your fire"

    I think a sabbatical does exactly that, allows God to breathe upon the embers of your fire and rekindle the passion and purpose He's placed in you. Maybe we could learn something from the Catholic Church.


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Having been in ordained ministry in the UMC for 34 years, I've experienced the truth that although, clergy are frequently present for others, no one can offer what they don't have.That's why if you're a clergy person, you need someone who will listen to you. Not the random next closest person available, but rather someone like a spiritual director, a therapist, a peer who can be fully present to you. I hope the links and posts you find here will give you ideas, humor, hope and encouragement. Scott Endress

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