A Message from Pastor Ray
I want to inform you, church, that the elders of Grace have graciously okayed my request to take a Sabbatical.
The Sabbatical is going to be 3 months in length starting this September. So, I will be on Sabbatical from September 1st through November 30th.
Just some background information. When I first came to Grace some 13 years ago, I had requested that I would be able to take a sabbatical as I was just about to go on one before I came to Grace. That was accepted and I was to take a Sabbatical after 3 years here. But circumstances led to me not taking one during that time or actually for a number of years.
So this past December, before the COVID 19 hit the elders agreed that I would take a sabbatical leave starting this September. With all that has been going on, we decided that I still needed to take the Sabbatical at this time.
So what is a Sabbatical? First, you may have heard of the term Sabbatical in reference to the academic world. A pastor’s Sabbatical is similar but different.
Sabbatical even in the Academic world has its roots in the Bible. The term sabbath (to rest or to cease) or sabbath rest is the foundation of what a Biblical Sabbatical is. The concept of the sabbatical is based on the Biblical practice of shmita, which according to Leviticus 25, Jews in the land of Israel were to take a year-long break from working in the fields every seven years. A year’s rest for the land and years rest for the people.
A Biblical Sabbatical then is a season of Sabbath or prolonged rest. It’s like stringing together a number of Sabbath days. It’s an extended time in which you do no work. You do no pastoring, no leading, no ministering, no visioning the future of the church, no sermon planning. You don’t try to accomplish anything big. But it is not doing “nothing” it is a time of restoration.
Diane and I have many plans for this season, of which all are up in the air at this time because of COVID 19 – they had a lot to do with time with our boys and our grandboys. A time of study. A time of visiting places of historical Christian significance. But we will have to see now what and where we may be able to go.
Please don’t worry about what will happen while I am away. The church is in the good and capable hands of the Elders. We will continue on in our study of the book of Romans with Clay probably handling the bulk of the preaching but with other elders chipping in as well.
As well, any of my other responsibilities will be covered by the Elders. Remember we are led by a plurality of Elders here at Grace. This means that not everything will be just dumped on Clay, the rest of the Elders have agreed to pull together and help out where needed. So things that may come up like funerals (let’s hope not) or counseling issues can be well handled by our elders here at Grace.
I really wouldn’t do this if I did not think that Grace was in good hands. And remember that our elders are under-shepherds of the Great Shepherd Jesus Himself. So, He is the true leader of Grace and the One who is in control. So you are in good hands.
Answers to Questions You May Have
The word sabbatical has its roots in the Biblical concept of Sabbath (“to rest” or “to cease”). Sabbath keeping is setting aside time that God consecrates and makes holy. Sabbath includes elements of rest, disengagement, study, exploration, reflection and prayer. A pastor’s sabbatical is a time designated for the pastor to remove himself from the routines of regular ministry and to experience a change in perspective, to receive spiritual nourishment, and to deepen one’s relationship with God.
Although some components of a sabbatical may sound a bit like vacation, a sabbatical is not a vacation from the church. This is an opportunity for the pastor to reconnect with parts of his life that are important, such as his sense of call, his vocation, and the roots of his spiritual journey. Times of sabbatical give pastors the opportunity to shape themselves as better shepherds and leaders for the church and give rise to a deeper reliance on the Holy Spirit in their life. The intent of the sabbatical is for the pastor to return to the congregation refreshed and renewed, ready to move forward into the next phase of our life together.
Taking times of sabbatical are normal occurrences in pastoral ministry. Many churches have established policies of sabbatical leave, most often granted after every 7 years of ministry.
And yes, Sabbatical leaves are not common outside of ministry or academic institutions. To many people in the business community, this can seem like a strange idea. However, pastors are not CEO’s. Their role is to shepherd and lead God’s people and to do so requires them to seek God’s voice and spend time engaging God in different rhythms.
Though you are just hearing of this now, Pastor Ray has been planning this for more than a couple years, after originally requesting a sabbatical when he first came to Grace. Situations in both his life and the life of the church led to him not taking a sabbatical within his first 5 years here. So those plans were put on hold until just over a year ago when the elder team began to talk about this and make plans towards it. But this is something that Pastor Ray has desired to do for some time.
Pastor Ray’s last Sunday will be August 30, 2020 where he will be preaching. He will return to the regular ministry on Tuesday, December 1, 2020. So, he will be gone September through November.
Pastor Ray will be taking this time to rest and restore. He has some plans to dig into some theological issues that he just hasn’t had time to do in the regular ebb and flow of ministry. He and Diane also plan on reconnecting as much as they can with their children and grandchildren. We say as much as they can as the Canadian border remains closed (in that to enter Canada you have to quarantine for 14 days before you can have contact with other people). They also plan (again God willing) on visiting some sights of historical Christian significance here in the USA as well as visiting the Ark Encounter and Museum of the Bible. All of this to refresh and renew.
Pastor Clay will take on the major responsibility of leading the ministry staff and church functions in a day to day way. But the leadership and oversight of the church will still be under the guidance of our Team of Elders. Remember we are led by a plurality of elders and we have a number of elders who have agreed to step up and be more available during this time while Pastor Ray is away.
Pastor Clay will take on the bulk of the preaching, but other elders will be helping and sharing some of that load with Pastor Clay through this season.
Pastor Ray will be unavailable throughout the period of sabbatical and it’s requested that you don’t try and contact him through email, or by phone. If there is a care need, or you need pastoral guidance, you can contact Pastor Clay or anyone of the elders and they will be there to help.
In case of emergency, Pastor Clay or Marty Bruns our lead lay elder are the designated contacts to reach out to Pastor Ray at their discretion.
- First, recognize that the church is not the pastor. This church does not belong to Pastor Ray, it belongs to Jesus. In fact, the Bible calls the church His “bride,” which means He loves it more than any pastor ever could. And He alone is the chief elder of the church. All of our elders are under shepherds of His. So, recognize that what Grace is as a church goes far deeper than the leadership of a single pastor.
- Second, lean in, not out. It’s very normal for some of you to think this would be a great time for you to take a break from ministry in either attendance, giving, or volunteering. Our hope is that this won’t be the case for you. The church is a body that needs all of its parts doing what they do best. Our church needs you and we hope that you take this opportunity to engage even deeper in our church and find new ways to call this place your home.
- Finally, pray for pastor Ray. Though there are many great things about spending an extended period in this way, it can also be a struggle. Disconnecting from relationships for a period can be painful and changing the day-to-day rhythms can leave one wondering about their purpose. Pray for Pastor Ray’s journey through sabbatical and for his leadership and passion for Jesus’ church here at Grace to be renewed so that the church may benefit from what God is doing in him upon his return.