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Thinking Sabbatical Thoughts

“God was the first worker. God labored to make the world. Our work isn’t a punishment, it’s how we share in God’s work. It’s how we make the world better.” So the story of creation in Genesis 1 inspires Sylvain Kazadi, Ruth Brown’s colleague in the Presbyterian Church of Congo, to challenge his neighbors in Kasai to work hard in ways that will improve their lives and communities. God was the first worker.

God was also the first rester, it occurs to me, looking forward to my sabbatical. A sabbatical is basically an extended Sabbath, and God’s rest is the model for our own.  God ceased from God’s labor – Genesis 2:2-3.  For creation, Sabbath is a time to stop, rest, and remember God’s abundant care and gracious call.  A sabbatical – a multi-week, or even multi-month absence from a job – isn’t something everyone gets. (Heck, a weekly “day off” isn’t something everybody gets.)  I know plenty of pastors who don’t get to take a sabbatical because their church doesn’t support or can’t afford it, or because those pastors feel called (or compelled) to move away at the time a sabbatical is due.  I feel fortunate indeed to have GPPC’s support, the Lilly Endowment’s funding, and the intention to remain with GPPC for a good while longer. This sabbatical is meant to renew me for another stretch of ministry with you.

“Catch your breath.” You’ve probably heard it many times in relation to this summer. Catch Your Breath is the title of Don Postema’s book, which describes Sabbath as a time for mindfulness, rest, refreshment, receptivity, release, and refocusing. (If you missed the Sunday School class but would like to read this book, just let Roxanne Mucklow know. We can obtain more copies.)  I’ve planned some activities for my sabbatical – retreats to Richmond Hill, yoga, reading (some for pleasure, some for church programs), quilting, and the trip to New Zealand we could never have scheduled without Lilly.  But the goals of my sabbatical are mostly mindfulness, rest, refreshment, receptivity, release, and refocusing on God, God’s grace, and God’s call. Ted Loder’s little prayer sums it up beautifully:

Now, O Lord, calm me into a quietness that heals and listens, and molds my longings and passions, my wounds and wonderings into a more holy and human shape.

I want to hush and listen and become in every way more like God wants me to be . . . so I can keep working with you – and God! –to make the world better.

Our beloved pastor, Carla Pratt Keyes, shares her thoughts as she begins her sabbatical on May 26, 2013.  We’ll miss her in ways big and small while she’s gone, but we’re grateful that her Lilly Foundation grant provides opportunities for our members to catch our breath as well!  Click HERE to see all the ways that we can participate in refocusing our lives on God’s grace and call while Carla is gone.  Godspeed, Carla!

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