Friday, July 1, 2016

Letters from the Soul: This Month's Newsletter Column

July 2016: "Setting Up the Sabbatical"

Dear Church,

As many of you know I am currently tentatively scheduled to spend the first three months of 2017 on sabbatical.

The letter of call I signed in August 2011--almost five years ago!--stipulates a three-month sabbatical after every five years of service, and I plan to take advantage of sacred and holy time away from day-in, day-out ministry by working on my Doctor of Ministry thesis at Seattle University's School of Theology and Ministry and teaching at Three Rivers Christian School. By taking on both of these tasks, I am not only furthering my professional education to benefit the church through SU-STM, but I also get an amazing opportunity to give back to the wider community through TRCS.

While I am on sabbatical from January 2 through April 2, my presence in your life will be different. I won't be available for the regular tasks of preaching, teaching, counseling, and leading that you rely on me to do. That does not mean that you will not hear from me--I'll still be around on social media and posting updates of my sabbatical to my online blog, but you won't see me at church on Sundays or in my office during the week like usual. 

Instead, an ad hoc search committe is, by the authority of our Board of Directors, being formed to recommend a candidate for the role of Interim Sabbatical Pastor, who would provide a part-time pastoral presence for the church during my sabbatical. and our Director of Children's Ministries, Jamie Lynn Devries, will provide input to the committee in a nonvoting, ex officio capacity.

I myself, though I have reached out to the candidates to gauge their interest in this position, will have no part in any of the committee's deliberations, nor will I have a vote on their recommendation to the congregation. This committee will be starting its work in earnest over the next couple of months to vet the candidates--who have been recommended to us by Sandy Messick, our Regional Minister and President--before them. They will surely appreciate your prayers for God's providence and guidance in making their recommendation, which hopefully can be brought to a congregational vote by October or November.

Even with the ministry of an interim sabbatical pastor, though, we will need our dedicated church volunteers to step up as well. I have already spoken to our Board and our Elders about the increased responsibilities they will face in the areas of decision-making (the Board) and pastoral care of our people (the Elders), and they too should be prayed for and cared for, as should Jamie, Charlotte, and our church staff.

I remain immensely grateful to the search committee that voted to recommend me to you five years ago--Judy Southard, Judy Ellenbolt, Alma Kudlacek, Don Powell, Lori Powell, and the late Darlyne Temanson--and for their foresight to include the sabbatical as a part of my letter of call. This time to work on my education--and to provide for the education of others in our town--is a precious gift, and it cannot be taken for granted. The purpose with which I am approaching it does, I hope, speak volumes to all of you about its value to me and to our congregation!

Yours in Christ,
Pastor Eric

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