February 2011

Back Again

Yes! After 3 months Sabbatical from September to November 2010, I am enjoying being back in harness again. After 11 years of ministry here at Christ Church Rayleigh, the time for rest and reflection was much needed. It was good for me to be reminded that things can run perfectly well without me, and for the other church leaders to discover that they can manage ever so well without me as well. I would like to thank the secretary, elders and worship leaders, etc who took on so much of what is normally seen as the minister's responsibility.

Can I dispel one myth though. I did not have a 3 month holiday. Though to be fair, the URC expects a Sabbatical to include a lesser pace than usual, I did not spend 3 months on the beach in Tenerife. There is an expectation of an agreed programme of study and/or reflection, along side the time of laying aside normal ministry responsibilities. For me this programme comprised 3 strands.

Firstly, I participated in numerous courses. Some of these courses were Christian based such as the Eastern Synod's annual 3 day Minister's Get Together or the Biblical conference in Westminster College, Cambridge. Other courses picked up on my role as a school governor and most weeks I spent one or two evenings attending governor's training events and I am finally up to date (if not ahead) of these requirement's.

Secondly, I met with my spiritual director weekly. From these conversations, I daily worked through areas in my personal prayer life which I found both stimulating and challenging.

Thirdly, I spent two and half weeks in Israel at St. George's College, Jerusalem participating in an intensive course 'The Palestine of Jesus'. Though the other two strands on my sabbatical were very worthwhile, it’s this time in Israel that really stands out as a real highlight of not just the sabbatical but of the last few years.

There were so many areas of interest that came together in my time there that towards the end I was overwhelmed with the sights, sounds and emotions. Geography, History, Biblical Studies, Devotion and Reflection went into the melting pot and I surprised myself that actually walking in the same places where Jesus walked became so meaningful to me, even if many of the traditional Christian sites left me underwhelmed.

As always, much of this experience raised almost as many questions as it answered, but in looking back on my time there I can only say that I was blessed.

Alongside that, after culling out the worst 500 or so, I have almost 1600 photos of my time in Israel. I hope to arrange a showing of some (not all!) in the near future.

Can I thank you for gifting me the time to rest, reflect, experience and learn.

Life is not made up just of highlights, as the death of many of our church saints while I was on sabbatical shows. But I am blessed to have had such an experience.

February 2011