So why a sabbatical?
Well, a couple of years ago, a dear friend of mine, Fr John Reeves, who has known me since before I was a catechumen, suggested to me that I look into taking some time off from my parish by applying to the Lilly Foundation for one of their grants through their National Clergy Renewal Program. (You can read about their program here.) Fr John, who has always been something of a mentor to me, had seen in me clear signs of ministerial burnout and figured I needed a break for some R&R. The Lilly Foundation provided a possible way to do that.
Fr John had applied to Lilly for–and won–a sabbatical grant for himself. He took his sabbatical last summer. He decided to follow the route of St Herman in coming from Valaam Monastery on the Russian-Finnish border, across European Russia and Siberia, to Alaska, and to serve for a while in an Alaskan village church. This is the blog he wrote for his sabbatical.
It sounded like a good idea to me. As those of you who know me well know, the last three years or so have not been easy for me. Without going into details, I’ve had personal issues, health issues, family issues and parochial issues, not one after the other, but one on top of the other. Of course, I am not alone: other people who are close to me, and some for whom I have pastoral responsibility, have been through the wringer themselves, and I have helped them to bear their crosses. I have been a poster-child for midlife crisis, parental angst, compassion fatigue and clergy burnout all rolled into one. It ain’t been pretty…
So, with the blessing of Archbishop Job (of blessed memory) and with the help and support of my parish council, I wrote up a grant proposal for a 3-month sabbatical from my parish and submitted it late last spring. In November, we received word that Lilly had approved our proposal, and the parish & I were awarded a grant of $38,698. Here is the press release for all of this year’s winners.)
That’s how it all got started. In the next post I’ll say what I’m looking to do on my time away.