The Seventh Day - my Sabbatical
Sabbath time. God rested from God’s work on the Sabbath (i.e. seventh) day and called it holy. God commanded the people to observe the Sabbath. I love the following two quotes, both from contemporary writers:
If you keep the Sabbath, you start to see creation not as somewhere to get away from your ordinary life, but as a place to frame an attentiveness to your life. (Eugene Peterson - pastor, writer, creator of the “The Message” translation of the Bible)
Anyone can observe the Sabbath, but making it holy surely takes the rest of the week. (Alice Walker - novelist, poet, activist)
The word “Sabbath” (from the Hebrew word for “seven”) is at the root of the word “Sabbatical.” As some of you may remember, my call contract specified that I take a Sabbatical of three months following seven years of ministry here in Orleans. (Such a specification is a part of most clergy call contracts.) So, in Aug – Sept 2015 (the seventh year in Orleans), I took half of the Sabbatical (six weeks), which I combined with two weeks of vacation for study, conference, and exploring time. In today’s world, I – along with many of my clergy colleagues – feel that a full three months is too much at one time. So we divide our sabbaticals into two, or sometimes, three parts. As such – at the encouragement of the Cabinet – I am taking the second-half of the Sabbatical this summer (the ninth year of ministry in Orleans).
What does this mean? I will be away for six weeks on Sabbatical from July 17 – July 30 and from August 7 – Sept 3. (I couldn’t miss the Church Fair!).
What will I be doing? I will be working on two research projects: (i) I am presenting a paper for the “Bible and Visual Arts” program unit for the Society of Biblical Literature Annual Meeting in November (and this year it takes place in Boston!). The title of the paper is: “Visually-Embodied Scripture as a Lens to the American Experience: Examples from Boston Libraries and Museums.” In this paper, I am looking at an original 1791 illustrated Bible published by Isaiah Thomas of Boston and Worcester. This Bible is housed at the Congregational Library & Archives in Boston. Additionally, I am researching an 1893 biblical quilt created by Harriet Powers who had been born a slave in Georgia. The quilt is housed at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. I will also be considering additional illustrated Bibles at Harvard and at the Congregational Library. The primary questions I will be exploring are: what motivated the selection of images in the Bible and the quilt, and how do the images convey particular understandings and expressions of the American experience? And (ii) I will also be doing a bit of research on the biblical, theological, historical dimensions of police-(faith) community relations, drawing upon the work I do as co-chair of the MLK Action Team. Needless to say, this will take up every day of the six weeks!
As I noted prior to Sabbatical part-one in 2015, I do not take this Sabbatical lightly. I realize that “Sabbatical” is a privilege, primarily available only to those in ministry or in academia. I am well aware that a majority of people would love, or really need, a sabbatical, and cannot take one: minimum-wage and hourly workers; those who must have two or more jobs to make ends meet; small business owners who work 24/7; employees at all levels of big corporations who work long and hard hours. Everyone needs a sabbatical. Most people are not able to.
I have a challenge for you: I’ll be researching something new which I find fascinating during my sabbatical. Is there something you might do over the summer as a quasi-sabbatical? Learn a new skill, research something you are curious about, read some of those books on your book shelf, work on a DIY project, do some painting or crafting or writing, etc., etc. Let’s all compare our projects in September!
During the Sabbatical time, pastoral coverage will be looked after by various retired clergy (as always, contact Kimberly in the church office 508-255-3060). And Sunday worship will be our annual “Summer Comes Alive: Fresh Voices of Inspiration and Action” series (see on another page). Jesus said, “I came that you may have life, and have it more abundantly” (John 10:10). May the summer enrich us all that we may be renewed and refreshed with joy and abundant life.
Love and blessings,