The last 14 months have been personally filled with anticipation, planning, waiting, wondering, worrying, relief, profound gratitude and now, anticipation all over again. It was 14 months ago that I made a decision to apply for the 2013 National Clergy Renewal Program grant funded by the Indianapolis-based Lilly Endowment Inc. Thirty-five years of being on-call nearly 24/7 and working most every weekend of the year, can take its toll. Walking with people through their gut-wrenching, life-altering experiences of pain and grief has a cumulative impact on even the care-givers. So I decided to take action. I’m happy to report to you that I am blessed beyond measure.
My wife Linda and I and the congregation we founded were awarded a four-month fully funded sabbatical by the Lilly Endowment. Cape Christian Fellowship is one of 87 congregations across the country selected to participate in this competitive grant program. Starting May 1, we will be taking extended time to rest, recharge, retool and reconnect.
We will begin our sabbatical with five weeks of travel in Austria, Switzerland, and Germany, where we will visit many places connected to our family and spiritual heritage. Our activities will range from spending a few days in a monastery to hang gliding in the Swiss Alps. After these initial weeks, we will experience a five-day Greek Isle cruise tracing the journey of the Apostle Paul, a prominent first century Christian leader.
Following the cruise, Linda and I will return to the United States, where we will spend the next 10 weeks on a road trip from Florida to my home state of Oregon and back to Florida again. Since one of the intentions of the grant is to strengthen and refresh the pastor’s family, we will be spending a week on the Oregon Coast with our three adult children, their spouses, and our four grandchildren. Our stateside activities include a week in the Canadian Rockies and a five-day workshop for me with a professional photographer in Glacier National Park in Montana to nurture my hobby—nature photography. The sabbatical starts winding down in August with a four-day marriage retreat in Colorado and then it wraps up with a reflection time in a cabin in Georgia.
“Lilly Endowment intends for this program to enable pastors to live for a while at a different pace and in a new environment, in Sabbath time and space,” said Dr. Christopher L. Coble, vice president for religion at the Endowment. “We can think of no better way to honor these hardworking, faithful men and women than to help them experience personal growth and spiritual renewal in ways that they themselves design and find meaningful. We regularly hear that these renewal experiences are transformative for pastors, their families, and their congregations.”
Linda and I are anticipating growth and renewal during this upcoming time away. We feel blessed beyond all measure. I’m still working on how I might do some continued but limited blog posts while I’m away to keep you connected to our journey and experiences. These next 90 days before we leave will be filled with much preparation to make sure all the details both for our travels and for what we leave behind, are covered and taken care of. But everyday is filled with incredible thankfulness and gratitude for God’s blessings and the foresight of business leaders like the Lilly family who are using their resources to bless people like our family.
QUESTION: Have you ever taken an extended time away and what did you learn about the experience that you would be willing to pass on to us? Share it in an email to DGingerich@capechristian.com or in the comment section below. Thanks!