Sabbatical reflections

As I return to my role in Poynton after a six week sabbatical I do so with an interesting mix of feelings.

I’ve blogged about my trip to New Zealand before so readers already know that I had a fantastic time, enjoying learning about church life there and having the chance to visit lake Tekapo as well as Christchurch. I remain overwhelmed by the generosity of Rob Petrini and others in New Zealand who did so much to make my visit so great.

I’ve also had the opportunity to read a few books. I’ll post a couple of reviews over the next few weeks (and write one for Regent’s Reviews which will appear in due course).

Both the reading and the travelling give me a fresh perspective on what I do and some thoughts about my ministry in the months ahead.

The thing which surprised me most was the impact of having time out. The real headline of my time is not the travel, reading or conversations but the way that through it all (especially my time in Tekapo) God seemed to use it as a reminder that I’m loved.

I’m also struck by how long it actually took to stand back from my existing church role; indeed it is only in the last 10 days that I’ve really done so. Maybe that is the advantage of longer sabbaticals, but it shows up how integral ‘role’ is to my sense of identity. [There is a danger for all involved in pastoral ministry that our involvement in church life erodes the differentiation between us and the congregation in ways that are unhealthy].

There has been an ongoing cardiac element to my time. Firstly, because I still get nervous travelling alone and being a long way from other people (in the UK when I cycle I always take my mobile with me, just in case of another cardiac event). These fears, however irrational, have been often brought to the surface as I’ve pushed my comfort zones. Second, part of me thinks, post heart attack, that instead of believing I’ve got some life in me yet I should look to find a quiet, relaxed way to use my time and focus on doing stuff I like.

So I return with some mixed emotions. Several people asked me earlier, “am I pleased to be back”? In truth no, I would love to have more time to recharge and refocus on my call. I’m a strange mix of theologian, analyst, prophet, preacher, leader, teacher, administrator and visionary; and how these should play out in the months ahead remains unresolved (at least in my mind) not least in how to distinguish between my own dreams / aspirations and God’s call on my life.

But I’m back to serve and see what God will write in this next section of my chapter at PBC. With thanks to the church here for allowing me the time out.

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