Friends in Christ,
From August 5th through September 2nd I will be on sabbatical.  A sabbatical is a time where ones “work” or “focus” changes for an extended period of time.  A change from sermon preparation and hospital calls, counseling, meetings, administration, putting out fires, and planning program, etc., to focusing on “self-care” and furthering ones walk with Jesus.
It is a time to break from routine to refocus and reenergize.  For a minister it’s often an extended time away to work on those areas of one’s life that gets pushed aside from the demands of pastoral ministry.  Pastors are encouraged by our UM Discipline to take a sabbatical every four years of full time ministry (this is based on service years as a pastor with the Conference, not years at a specific church).
  Over the years, I’ve not followed this pattern but have spoken to a number of clergy who have, and they have shared how beneficial it was for them and their church.  Last Fall, during my “Call to Fruitfullness Initiative” (Christian Education Program that helps you set goals, focus on effective ministry, etc.) I made the commitment to take my sabbatical this year.
As a pastor, it’s important to model this Biblical principle of rest and renewal for those I care for.  Throughout scripture we see this stressed for God’s people as God himself modeled this for us.  From God resting on the 7th day to calling us to take time for Sabbath in the 3rd Commandment, to Jesus going out into the desert 40 days to fast, and often up into the hills to a solitary place to get away and be alone with the Father.
  Inspiration and guidance comes from the Holy Spirit as we give ourselves over to God through prayer, solitude, renewal; spending quality and quantity time with Jesus alone  (which often gets interrupted in the day to day life of a pastor because of the demands of ministry).
  A sabbatical also helps pastors step back and refocus.  To truly see their ministry and personal walk with Jesus for what it is.  It allows one “time” to break old routines (if needed) and to discover new.  And of course, sabbaticals are essential for “clergy self-care!”  This can be a wonderful time of renewal and growth for both pastors and congregations, with the potential for energizing ministry for the long haul.
  Do keep me (and my family) in your prayers while I’m away.  Retired Pastor, Sandi Lumpkin will be sharing the message with us each Sunday beginning August 8th.  She will be doing a sermon series entitled, “Soulshift.”  Now I know, sometimes when the pastor is away, parishioners stray…, but you won’t want to do that because this is really a good preaching series.  In fact, this was a series I had thought of preaching on before the end of the year.  I’m so happy Sandi will be sharing this with you (it’s almost like we planned it…, God is so good).
Blessings, Pastor Andy