I have been ordained to the priesthood since 1993. If anything that means that I have had quite a lot of experiences in that time period from serving parishes in Florida, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Tennessee, and now in North Carolina. It was from the Episcopal Churches in Connecticut and in Tennessee where I was the Rector that I took a Sabbatical. These Sabbaticals encompassed some study at Sewanee, some staying with members of the Episcopal Diocese of South Dakota (Companion Diocese of East Tennessee), plenty of sleep, and all with my family.
This was all at a time that there was plenty of good ministry going on in both of the churches in Connecticut and Tennessee. It was in that time frame that my Bishops in both Connecticut and East Tennessee would remind me that my example for ministry was Jesus who intentionally took time away in the midst of his busy ministry. For example, after Jesus fed the five thousand, his popularity surged. The people were going to make him king by force. What did Jesus do? St. John records, he withdrew again to the mountain by himself. Instead of riding his wave of success, Jesus left. In fact, Jesus left again. Amazing. The Son of God needed to be by himself again. It was part of his spiritual discipline
Clergy also need to go away - that is literally the only way they will get away - to be alone. I modified my getting away to happily involve my family. Fr. Bill will be away and out-of-touch. Delmer Chilton and I will be here and in-touch; we also have 40 and 25 years of ordained ministry, respectfully. If you do the math, you have two clergy with plenty of experience to be with you. Good Shepherd will continue to have the diaconal ministry of Turner Guidry. Furthermore, during the week, I will typically be here Monday through Wednesday. Delmer Chilton will be here for the later part of the week. We are both available for clergy pastoral appointments here, as well as bringing Holy Communion to those who are unable to get out. Tom Wilkerson will continue in his role and Senior Warden, and Teresa Gribble will continue in her role as Junior Warden. I could confidently go on and on about the things that will remain the same. In other words, we are in good shape. Though Fr. Bill will be deeply missed during his Sabbatical, he will even agree that Good Shepherd will move forward without him and he without us.
Both of my Sabbaticals were for me times of spiritual recharge, recreation, and reconnection with my family. I did not know how much recharge, recreation, and reconnection I desperately needed. The only way I was going to discover this was to literally get away. Pray for Fr. Bill during his time of Sabbatical. We will all come back together ready to move forward in the ministry that Christ has called us all.