‘So it’s a three month holiday then?’
‘Hmm, not really! Perhaps I ought to explain . . .’
Some of you may know I am about to embark on what is known as a ‘sabbatical’. I shall be off work from 14th September until 17th December. After seven years in the same job, Anglican clergy are given the opportunity to take three months away from their usual responsibilities to do something entirely different. I suppose it is partly to stop us becoming stale or jaded, but it is also a chance to step aside from what can be an all-consuming occupation, hopefully to return refreshed, challenged and invigorated. As I have never been in a post for longer than four or five years the opportunity hasn’t arisen before despite two decades in full-time Christian ministry.
My original plans were to do a piece of high-flying work at a centre of academic excellence; enquiries at both Princeton and Cambridge to spend time on their visiting fellowship programmes were progressing well - however, that was before my daughter opted to set the date of her marriage for just twelve days after my return home! Suddenly three months away from the inevitable domestic responsibilities of organizing a wedding all looked rather selfish, and my plans were hastily modified.
So what will I be doing? Well, I shall be spending some time working at Cardiff in the department where I have been a tutor and lecturer for the last five years. I have also taken the opportunity of accepting a number of speaking engagements both abroad and in this country. Essentially, I shall be focussing on the question ‘When the Church speaks out, does anyone listen?’
My academic expertise in recent years has been on understanding the moral and ethical dilemmas of war and political violence. The Church has often tried to give a lead on these matters, but not always with great success. I hope I will come back with better formed ideas on how we can interact with an increasingly secular society and say things that are both profoundly Christian and compellingly wise! In the meantime, you may see me at the back of church on the weekends when I am at home, but for the duration of the sabbatical you will be in the capable hands of Ralph our curate, and Richard and Bill our faithful churchwardens.
I am aware that not everyone is as fortunate as me to be able to take such an opportunity, but the truth is we all need time set aside to consider the ‘big picture’. If we don’t we will just stumble onwards from day to day. We will abdicate control of our lives to the vagaries of trivia, rather than lifting our eyes to the horizon and consciously selecting the direction our lives should take. Many people find that entering into the Christian faith is just such an experience. You inevitably ask yourself questions such as how should I live, where should I go, who should I be?
Jesus summed up his ministry in a sentence that has always inspired and encouraged me - ‘I have come that they may have life, and have it in abundance’1 It would truly be a tragedy to be so overwhelmed by the detail and burden of ‘life’ that we miss out on ‘abundant life’ altogether.
1 John 10.10
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