My first two weeks on sabbatical/study leave have provided opportunities to read, rest, renew and write. I am in Williamsburg, Virginia and have spent time seeing Colonial Williamsburg and also visiting family who live about two hours away.
While I have not been totally “off the grid” regarding Internet, telephone and email, I have been able to disconnect from the daily activities of ministry. I have welcomed this change but, I must say, it has been a challenge for me to shift gears from focus on ministry to focus on renewal and reflection.
I came with a reading list—books to provide spiritual renewal, books focused on congregational systems, and books for leisure reading. The book I continue to savor is titled Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership by Ruth Haley Barton. I resonate with Barton’s quote of Barbara Brown Taylor when Taylor talks about how she had been drawn to a life of servanthood but ended up a service provider. Reading and reflecting on the truths in this book have helped me pay attention to my soul, to inner realities and calling upon which life and ministry are based.
Barton’s book has guided me to ask some probing questions: “What would help me replenish my joy as Christ’s servant? How can I be the kind of leader who leads with a deep sense of Christ’s presence?” Barton suggests that the pattern of Moses provides a good example for contemporary leaders. Moses had private encounters with God. In these private encounters, Moses had conversation with God. Moses talked but he mainly listened to God. Following the private encounters, Moses moved to carry out what had been revealed to him. “He did not seem to have any great strategies for leadership except to seek God in solitude and then carry out what God revealed to him there.” (Page 31) This time away has provided opportunities for me, as Barton says, “…to stay involved with [my] own soul—that place where God’s Spirit is at work stirring up [my] deepest questions and longings to draw [me] deeper into relationship with him.” (Page 25)
In addition to reading and reflecting, I have also been productive. A major focus of this sabbatical is writing and producing a resource that would be helpful to churches during the interim. To date, I have developed a basic outline and written the introduction and first two chapters.
I am grateful to the council of the Kentucky Baptist Fellowship for allowing this time of renewal.