I’m writing this on the heels of coming back from a wonderful retreat in Ireland. The leader of the retreat, Peter Rollins, kicked off our time together by asking a simple question: “How many of you don’t know why you’re here?” I knew I was in the right place when everyone raised their hand.
He went on to describe two types of vacation: There’s the first type where we take some time off to get away from the disaster of our daily lives, and at least half of that vacation is spent building up the energy to enter back in to a world where we feel like a hostage. And then there’s the other type of vacation- when we catch a spark that starts a fire, causing us to make changes in our lives that bring us into alignment with the person that God intends for us to be. “Spark,” in fact, was the name of the conference.
January 2019 will mark the start of my 8th year at Media Presbyterian. During this time, the landscape of my ministry has changed radically from when I first arrived. If I pull the focus back and look at the totality of my 14 years in ministry, I have served only 2 churches, but yet co-labored with 9 different heads-of-staff. During each of these interim times, I’ve provided a consistent presence, teaching and preaching the gospel faithfully in challenging environments. God has turned these tumultuous times into a work of refinement of my character and ministry, and I can honestly say I’m grateful for it all. Yet I need to remember what life feels like without constant conflict. The past several years have taken a toll on me both spiritually and emotionally, and a time to get away and rest will be good for my soul – and for the congregation that I want to continue to serve.
With this in mind, the administration committee and the session of MPC have unanimously approved a sabbatical for me, extending from February 4th to May 6th. I have been in consistent and timely communications with the Committee on Ministry for the Philadelphia Presbytery, and they have been exceptionally supportive. We have additionally created a sabbatical planning team, including Joe Lesniak and Elder Karen Sanford, both members of the administration committee, and Elder Joe Hare. We will be working together over the next 2 months to communicate about the sabbatical to you all, the congregation. I have included a great resource from the Office of the General Assembly in the link below, which will answer many questions:
During this time away, I will be attending a Presbyterian conference for Church Educators, visiting Utah with girlfriends for a service project, doing a lot of hiking, and attending 2 silent retreats. I can say with clarity that a large portion of my leave will be dedicated to the ministry of writing. The retreat I just returned from in Ireland was the ‘Spark’ to develop materials I’ve been working on for years. I intend to dedicate each day to refining and developing these works. I feel MPC will benefit from the completion of these long-delayed projects. There will be no additional costs to the body of Media Presbyterian.
I’ve worked diligently to cultivate strong leadership in all areas of my ministries, and have been preparing these co-laborers for my absence. The Deacons are under the able leadership of Susan Howe and Linda Richardson. Visitation will be done by some Deacons under the guidance of Renee Erickson. MOYC is currently being co-led by Lexi Archer and Jeanne Cunningham. Stephen Ministry will be led by the Stephen Leader Team, of which I am but a part.
Jonathan has been tremendously supportive and helpful throughout this process. I’m grateful for our shared ministry and our relationship as laborers in the Gospel, as a sister and brother in Christ, and as friends who are growing together in Grace and Truth. I’ll be crystal clear - this is a sabbatical. It’s not a time of preparation to leave, it is a time of preparation to stay. Its’ purpose is to allow a planned time of intensive enhancement for ministry and mission. Its function is to allow me to continue to serve this church with energy, creativity, and passion. In addition, my sabbatical will provide opportunity for new servants to rise up, and especially give me some time to heal -- to put off what has gone behind and gather strength to press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ (1 Philippians 3:14).
Please contact me or a member of the Sabbatical Planning Team, if any of you have immediate questions or concerns. If you need to connect with someone prior to broader communications, I’m writing to reinforce the fact that we are here for you and for open dialogue and discussion.
I can say with joy, that when I returned from the Spark of Ireland, it was with joy to be returning to you.
May this Advent season bring all the Grace you so desire.
In His Service,