How comfortable I became

Posted Jul 07, 2016 | Lilly Endowment Clergy Renewal Programs

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This blog post is part of a series that features guest posts from pastors who have participated in Lilly Endowment Clergy Renewal grants. We wish to highlight some helpful approaches to the process which have allowed these grants to be blessings to both the pastors who go on renewal leaves and to the congregations themselves

My goals were to reconnect in relationship with my daughters and find renewal for ministry and soul through Celtic spirituality and Irish landscape. The program allowed me to spend three weeks with my daughter who had previously lived out of the country for eight years. We were able to share significant time together and reconnect in new ways. Unplugging from 24/7 ministry for an extended period was essential for my continuance in ministry.

Perhaps the most important factor that allowed me to find rest and renewal was knowing that my congregation was well cared for in my absence. The willingness of our associate pastor in stepping into leadership and having assistance for her was crucial. The leadership of the congregation affirmed this opportunity and supported me in this endeavor. It was so helpful in reducing any qualms I could have had if I had felt resentment instead. In addition, extensive research in preparation for the leave meant that I crafted my time and travel for optimum success.

I am very dedicated to my work and have a high commitment to doing my job well. The fact that I was willing to trust others with something so important to me demonstrated to others the importance of working as a team and supporting each other. The fact that I took time away from my ministry also sent a message about the importance of people taking time off and finding balance in life. 

The renewal leave had tremendous impact on my preaching, my ability to let go of attempting to control everything, and my ability to relax and honor my time off. I also found a new passion on my renewal leave: kayaking. While in Ireland, I yearned to be closer to the water, so I arranged for several kayak expeditions. I fell in love with it. Kayaking is now an important part of my physical, mental and spiritual practice. 

I learned to let go of control or attempting to control so much. I learned that all things might not be accomplished according to my direction, but that is worth the emotional relief and ease of weight to allow others to take charge and execute their plans well. I learned that time spent just ‘being’ is as important as any production or accomplishment.

While I knew I longed for the time away, I am not sure that I fully realized how tired I was prior to my renewal leave. I was also somewhat surprised at how comfortable I became with a more relaxed schedule. 

The experience of spending extended time refreshing and renewing your soul (or your pastor’s soul) is rewarding beyond measure. Send your pastor into his/her leave with confidence that the church will be blessed by her/his experience. Provide for trusted and quality care for the congregation in the pastor’s absence to allow peace of mind as the first gift of the journey.

This piece has been adapted from the reflections of the Rev. Dr. Betsy Florence from First United Methodist Church of Omaha, Nebraska. 

The Lilly Endowment Clergy Renewal Programs at Christian Theological Seminary (CTS) seek to strengthen Christian congregations by providing opportunities for pastors to step away briefly from the persistent obligations of daily parish life and to engage in a period of renewal and reflection. To request permission to repost this content, please contact clergyrenewal@cts.edu.

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