success stories

Posted March 3, 2003

Book: Journey Toward Renewal
Author: Melissa Bane Sevier
An Alban Institute Publication, Washington, D.C., pp.128

Excerpt from Introduction:

In the autumn of 2001 I was privileged to take a sabbatical, after working in the same congregation for nine-and-a-half years. Today I continue working happily in that congregation, a situation that might have been much less satisfactory for all parties without my time away. I might even have considered leaving.

Before and during the sabbatical, I kept a journal as spiritual practice, a discipline I have kept off and on for many years. Even now, the journal helps me see the course I have taken from stress to health, to renewal, to recommitment in my parish setting. Without moving to a new place, I have nevertheless traveled a journey of faith and newness.

In the course of my own musings, I grew curious about the experiences of others wh had taken sabbaticals, and began to seek them out. I learned that though we all approached sabbatical differently and had varied results, to a person we found the experience spiritually renewing. It was then I decided to write a book that would be a spiritual companion to those considering or taking a sabbaticals. In addition, the book offers serious and practical advice for the sabbatical journey, from the beginning of the idea to the final result.

As I speak to pastors and others about the subject of this book, I hear a growing interest in the concept of clergy sabbaticals. That probably shouldn’t be a surprise, since pastors and congregations alike are looking for spiritual renewal and are often hoping to continue their relationship together for many years without growing stale.

On the other hand, this book is not just for pastors who are in the midst of sabbatical. If you are thinking about renewal leave, or if you sense a need for rejuvenation in your spiritual or work life, I hope this book will give you ideas and inspiration for pursuing your dreams. If, though, you are currently preparing for or are in the middle of your sabbatical, the book may serve as a spiritual companion for your experiences.

Excerpt from Book:

I am quite different now. I realize that my life is more important than any one congregation, that the world is bigger than Brainerd, Minnesota, and that life is too short to waste it on work all the time. I have lowered my expectations of myself, and I think I am more realistic about having to prove myself all the time. Parish ministry is pretty much impossible, so to maintain a healthy life, you have to be realistic. Sabbatical helped me realize that there is a whole big world out there and I can do something else if I so choose. I think I am a better pastor now, too, by living like “them” for three months. Everyone has challenges in life — even those who don’t work on weekends!

Table of Contents:

1. The Right Time?
How I came to know I needed a sabbatical
The need for clergy renewal

2. What to Do?
Deciding how to spend my time
Choosing a focus for the sabbatical

3. The Congregation needs a sabbatical too
Beyond myself
Why the congregation need you to go away for a while

4. Who will pay for this?
Where will the money come from?
Funding your sabbatical

5. It’s here. Now What?
The first week
Beginning your time away

6. The dispensable pastor
Learning a different way of being a pastor
A new way of being

7. Travel in sabbatical
The trip

8. Being Away
Day by day
A balanced life

9. In the Midst of Sabbath
Learning Sabbath
Sabbath and Sabbatical

10. Preparing to Reenter
Almost over
Winding down

11. Returning from Sabbatical
The first month back

12. You Did What?
Time to reflect
Evaluating together

13. The New Pastor
The recliner
What has changed?