I’m writing this as one of the last things I do before I start a sabbatical for 3 months.
Two dictionary definitions give you an idea of what a sabbatical is:
“A is a period of time during which someone such as a university teacher can leave their work and or study.” Collins English Dictionary
Or somewhat cynically:
“A sabbatical year is a prolonged hiatus, typically one year, in the career of an otherwise successful individual taken in order to fulfill some dream, e.g. writing a book or travelling extensively.” Urban Dictionary
(I’m not sure I’d regard myself as an “otherwise successful individual”!)
The Methodist Church defines it this way
“For Methodist presbyters and deacons, a sabbatical is a period of release from ordinary ministerial duties, in addition to normal holidays, for the purpose of pursuing an approved programme of study, research, work or experience. It is intended as a time for re-equipping, refreshment and renewal.”
Like all ministers, I’m aware that a sabbatical is real gift from the church. After all, many other people do not have the benefit of a sabbatical.
The word sabbatical comes from the same route as the word sabbath. And in Jewish tradition, and subsequently Christian tradition, the sabbath day was a day set aside for rest.
Rest is not something we tend to be very good at in our culture. People like to be busy. Or even if they don’t like being busy, they often are! Ministers are no exception. Therefore, being made to take an extended time of sabbath is no bad thing.
In fact, it’s an example set by Jesus himself who we are told sometimes left his disciples to spend periods alone in times of reflection and prayer.
A few years ago, I read an excellent book that reminds us of the importance of rest and why Jesus came to realise times of rest were important. It’s not some serious academic doorstop of a book. It is a children’s book entitled “Jesus’ Day Off” by Nicholas Allan. It’s worth reading. It really is.
People ask me what I’m going to do during my sabbatical. As if “doing” is the important thing. I will be doing some photography and some reading. But most of all I’m going to be doing some resting!
sabbath rest by Galilee!
O calm of hills above,
when Jesus shared on bended knee
the silence of eternity
interpreted by love,
that deep hush subduing all
our words and works that drown
the tender whisper of your call,
as noiseless let your blessing fall
as fell your manna down,
as fell your manna down.
Dear Lord and Father of mankind John Greenleaf Whittier (1807 - 1892)