First, I would like to offer my gratitude and appreciation to this congregation for encouraging and supporting me in taking a sabbatical, my second one. Since I first started serving as your minister in August of 2002, I have been working with the Reverend Dr. Larry Peers as my clergy coach. His constant question to me is “What season of ministry are you and your congregation in?” Over the years, I have walked with you to plant new ideas, new ministries, and a new covenant; to tend to the growth and health within our congregation and to the ministries and programs already planted; to gather in and celebrate the fruit that has been brought forth. And I have stepped back, to rest and renew before beginning again. While we are doing all of these things all the time, usually one season or the other predominates. Sabbatical is a time for this fourth season—of stepping back, of rest and renewal, so you and I can come back to this ministry with new energy and new eyes, perhaps to plant something new, perhaps with a better idea of what needs attention and nurture, or a clearer vision of what fruits and gifts we have gathered and can celebrate.
I will be on sabbatical from January 1 through March 31st, 2016. During that time, I will be resting, and catching up with family and friends. I will be renewing—taking time to do the reading, writing, and imagining of ministry that I do not often have time to engage in during the day-to-day busyness of church. I will also prepare the soil for what I believe is next. I will be taking a three-day seminar on “Intercultural Competence”, developing the skills to help us engage in conversations and ministry in a multicultural world. I hope to attend a retreat series through the Center for Courage and Renewal entitled, “The Courage to Lead: Living and Leading from Within.” It actually begins before and continues during and after my sabbatical time, but I hope to use the sabbatical to really process what I am learning and discern how to bring it back both to my ministry and the ministries and leadership of the congregation.
Ministry is a sacred trust, a trust that I take very seriously. It is an honor and a privilege to be called to serve as your minister, to be entrusted with all the ways you share your individual and congregational struggles and hopes, losses and celebrations. Part of deepening this trust is taking the time and the risk to grow. I thank you for giving me the time to do this. And I have full confidence in you to benefit from the fruit of what you tended so well, your care for one another and this church as a whole.
I look forward to seeing you in worship on April 3rd, 2016!
Rev Ellen Spero