I began toying with this idea of a sabbatical last fall when a very gracious parishioner, noting I was going through a hard time, spoke up and offered for me to take a sabbatical last fall. It was a busy time in the life of the church and a busy time in my life (child with chronic Lyme and an Uncle who had a second stroke) and I thought sabbaticals are for rejuvenation and reflection and I would not be able to do that at that particular time. So I said – “Thank you, I can’t right now but will later.” The United Methodist church’s Book of Discipline allows for sabbaticals after twenty years of ministry (I was ordained a deacon in 1991) and after seven years of ministry in a particular church. I am entering my seventh year at Silverbrook United Methodist Church and Retreat Center.
The month of July is generally a quiet month. I remember when I was serving at Old Bridge UMC that they took the month of July off every year – no business or meetings, only worship and Bible studies. So July seemed like a good time to take my sabbatical. As if to confirm this we found out in Dec. that a vacation spot in Yellowstone, that we had applied for three years ago, had finally come open, so it seemed to confirm this was the time to take this sabbatical. Early on I had made a list of about 15 things I could do on my sabbatical (it’s not to be extra vacation but a time refreshed and renewed and to learn something). With the Yellowstone trip in place the subject that moved to the top of the list was Creation/Creator. This was again affirmed when my lay leader came back from Leadership Training Day all excited about having some type of ‘camp meeting’ with tents and a huge outreach to our community with the main topic being connecting church, God, and creation, and our being a green church. So nature and creation it was so deemed.
This sabbatical was approved by the Ad Council early in 2012 and as I continued to talk about it more ideas began to flow from parishioners and colleagues and my family. I decided on just a month because it would be expensive to have all those guest speakers (another falling into place thing) and because next July we will be moving to England.
The weekend before we headed out to Yellowstone my husband and youngest son were at Pocomoke State Park (http://www.dnr.state.md.us/publiclands/eastern/pocomokeriver.asp) in Maryland for a family bike weekend that we have run through the Potomac Pedaler’s bike club (http://www.potomacpedalers.org/default.asp) for the last 11 years. They brought me back a t-shirt to start off my sabbatical. It reads: “The River is calling and I must go…” I wore that shirt several times on our trip. It was perfect for such an awesome water park as YNP. God’s version of a water park not Six Flags….