June 5 – September 2, 2013
Rationale: United Methodist pastors, per our Discipline, are entitled to take up to three months off (does not count as vacation time) for renewal or study after ten years of full-time service. I am finishing my 11th year. I am requesting time away, which will include some renewal time, but the majority of the time will be spent working on a sabbatical project.
Purpose: I believe Oak Lawn UMC has the potential to be a prototype congregation for urban ministry in the 21st century. We are intentionally inclusive and welcoming of everyone. We offer hands on service opportunities. We excel in the worship opportunities we offer. Our facilities offer spaces that invite hospitality, are beautiful, and point to the beauty of all God has made. I want to use these months to explore, interview, question, observe, and participate in churches around the country that have lived out a similar mission and purpose for many years. The ultimate goal, working through the Church Council, is to establish a real, vital, tangible vision for Oak Lawn for the next ten years following the sabbatical period—2014 – 2023, leading us into our 150th anniversary (September 2024).
Funding: I heard recently that the Lilly Foundation provides grants for pastors seeking renewal/sabbatical leave. Reading more about the foundation, I discovered the deadline for applications for next year is this Friday, May 11! A completed application assumes: 1. Your enthusiastic blessing 2. My commitment to return to Oak Lawn as pastor for at least one year after the sabbatical (Duh!) 3. The Conference guaranteeing my appointment for that same year. 4. Oak Lawn pays my compensation during my sabbatical. Is Lilly funding necessary for the sabbatical? No. It will impact the scope of the sabbatical—but I intend to do what I can if I do not receive financial support from Lilly.
Churches I will explore: Foundry UMC, Washington, DC; Riverside Church, New York City; St. John’s UMC, Downtown Houston; GlideMemorial UMC, San Francisco; and Fourth Presbyterian Church Chicago. These churches are urban, historic, in mid/up/downtown locations, are intentionally diverse and inclusive, and offer real opportunities for ministry for their members.
Pastoral Care for Oak Lawn during the sabbatical: I have every confidence in Pastors Kerry and Gregg. They are both gifted pastors and preachers. If I receive Lilly funding, part of that money is used to compensate interim pastors during my absence, not only for preaching but for pastoral care and support. Oak Lawn will not be lacking in attention to worship or its members in any way.
I hope and ask for your blessing on this project as your Staff/Parish Relations team has offered theirs. It will have lasting benefit, not just for me and my family, but for the Oak Lawn family. The lessons learned and observed—by me, staff and key leaders of OLUMC who will accompany me on some travels—will be challenging, exciting, and fulfilling. Since hearing of this possibility, more than one person has said, “Oak Lawn has needed something like this for a long, long time.” Everyone is invited to an information session this Wednesday, May 9, at 6:00 p.m. for further discussion. Thank you for your support.