I am rapidly approaching my tenth anniversary as Rector of Trinity Church. Time does indeed fly when you are having fun! My letter of Agreement with the congregation calls for a three month sabbatical every five years. Thus, this is the summer to exercise that part of our agreement.
While sabbatical time includes opportunity for rest and renewal, it is not an extended vacation. Sabbaticals, as I understand them, are primarily about study, discernment, and developing expertise in areas that will be of benefit to the community once the person returns to the usual full-time role and responsibilities. It is just as much about “sharpening the axe” as it is about “recharging the battery”. That is my plan.
I have shared with you my belief that congregations today need to see themselves as communities rather than institutions. The life of that community is focused on the process of bringing people into closer relationship with Jesus Christ rather than churning out programs intended to satisfy the needs of the communities that that congregation is called to serve. This process will be the focus of my sabbatical.
In the first month, I plan on reading deeply and praying carefully about the true nature and process of discipleship. In particular, I want to re-examine what we in seminary somewhat irreverently referred to as “Hatch, Match, and Dispatch”. How do we go about in the present age of genuinely preparing people for Baptism and Confirmation, Marriage, and the great transition that the Burial Office represents? These moments are not “products” that we come to purchase from the church. They are milestones to be celebrated on our journey toward God. How do we renew that understanding here at Trinity?
“Telling the Story” will be the topic of the second month. We can no longer assume that most people know even the most important stories of the Bible. And yet, these stories comprise the foundation on which the Christian faith and life is built! What can we do to ensure that every member of our congregation, from youngest to most senior, has the opportunity to read, study, discuss, and thus learn from these Holy Scriptures in order to build our lives accordingly?
Finally, in the third month, I want to explore a topic that I believe is of critical importance presently: the stewardship of God’s creation. The planet that God has entrusted to our care is now threatened in any number of ways and the wellbeing of future generations is at great risk. What can do, here at Trinity, to become more faithful caretakers of this world that, for the moment, is our responsibility?
The sabbatical will also include some travel and time with family and friends. Please keep me in your daily prayers and know that I will be praying for each of you while away. In the meantime, Rachel, Jim Hammond, and our excellent staff will take great care of our congregation’s daily life! I rejoice in knowing that you are in great hands.
Faithfully in Christ,
The Rev. Rob Banse