June 27, 2013
What a gift you have given in this upcoming sabbatical! First of all, let me say thank you. Thanks to all of you for the endless ways that you have supported this opportunity for study, rest, and renewal for me, and for clarity of mission and strength for the future for the St. Andrew community. As you know, I’ll be away on sabbatical Monday, July 8th through Sunday, October 6th. I’ll use this time in a few interrelated ways. Near the beginning, we are taking the opportunity to travel in Europe. It will be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for our family as Claire makes her transition to college, and Peter to high school (Barb and I also celebrate our 25th anniversary in September!). The travel will support my research by getting me to the birthplace of Reformed theology in Scotland and Switzerland. The remainder of my sabbatical will be spent reading and writing in fulfillment of the Doctor of Ministry degree through San Francisco Theological Seminary, which I began in 2009.
I can imagine many of you have questions. When Session first discussed the possibility of a sabbatical in 2010, we produced a policy that includes a wonderful rationale that gets to its purpose. (You can find the full document on “Sabbatical Policy” – along with all our other policies and procedures – on the St. Andrew website in the “File Cabinet”. You can also find a link to the document here (– call Rosemary at the church office if you don’t have the password yet.). It reads in part like this:
Sabbatical Leave for pastors is a planned time of intensive enhancement for ministry and mission. Sabbatical Leave follows precedents in the academic community and among a growing number of private sector groups. This “extended time” is qualitatively different from “vacation’ or “days off.” It is an opportunity for the individual to strategically disengage from regular and normal tasks so that ministry and mission may be viewed from a new perspective because of a planned time of focus.
Sabbatical Leave is an extension of the Biblical concept of a Sabbath day and a Sabbath year for renewal. It is both an act of faith that God will sustain us through a period of reflection and changed activity and an occasion for recovery and renewal of vital energies.
I love what I get to do with you, but there is no doubt that the work, by its nature, tends to be all-consuming. One of the great gifts of a sabbatical is the ability to rest for a time from the constant reflection and discernment involved in the ongoing, daily work of ministry. While Maggie and Julie Kae remain with you in a pastoral capacity for the three months I’m gone, I will be able to give myself more fully to the work of the dissertation/project. I do not expect to have it completed by the time I return in October, but I hope to have made some significant progress.
In order to successfully give myself to this work, it is necessary for me to “disengage from regular and normal tasks.” That means that although you may see Barb and the kids—as much as it is a loss for me!—you will not see me at church during this time period. That’s where Julie Kae and Maggie come in. They will work with Session and the Deacons. They will guide the work from day-to-day, along with Rosemary and the rest of the staff and leadership.
Now, you may see me around town. If you do, let me ask you a big favor. Please say “hi.” Please feel free to tell me how you are and what’s new. But as much as you may want to talk with me about particularities of the church’s mission and ministry, do your best to resist. The problem is I care a great deal about these things, and once I get thinking about them, it takes away energy from my more specific sabbatical work. Helping me to “disengage” from these day-to-day issues serves the larger goal of the sabbatical. Maggie & Julie Kae will be responsible for keeping me apprised of anything I may need to know.
We are fortunate in having in Julie Kae and Maggie, profoundly gifted ministers who will continue to be your pastoral presence in my absence. As I think you know, Maggie, Julie Kae and I work as a pastoral team in all we do. Even though I am absent, you have two-thirds of that team that remains, fully capable to continue to serve and guide St. Andrew’s worship and work and to be present with you individually. You have heard about the additional fundraising for my sabbatical. That money will be divided equally between Maggie and Julie Kae to pay them each for roughly 12 additional hours per week while I’m gone. In my absence, they will oversee the most essential aspects of my work with you: worship, preaching, pastoral care, spiritual life, leadership, administration, and the Session and Deacons. Let me encourage you to contact them with any pastoral concerns you have, just as you would me. They are both equally available to you.
Finally I want to give thanks to your leadership, and particularly that of the Session. Much of the credit for our process goes to your Session who has crafted a sabbatical design and a manageable and creative funding structure to allow it to happen for a church such as ours with limited resources. And our ability to see it through has much to do with all of you and your roles individually and together in creating a community of generosity, self-giving, truth and love.
See you soon!
Grace & Peace,
Julie kae sigars
If memory serves, it was the summer of 1995…I went to the Presbyterian Association of Musicians Summer conference in Albuquerque. I was kind of fearful, but I had spent a year as a choir director. And I knew I was missing something. Maybe these people could help me.
One of my classes was The Theology of Worship. It stopped me in my tracks. "You mean,” I said, “All the things we do in worship actually MEAN SOMETHING? We do them for a REASON?”
Chuck Sigars is currently an elder at St. Andrew and a newspaper columnist and author.