Friday, 25 May 2012

Sabbath - the one commandment that's optional?

Halfway through sabbatical,  I now feel that I am now batting, rather than ducking for cover at short leg.  Suppiah hits a six against Durham.

With my job comes the great privilege of being on sabbatical for three months every seventh year.  And here I am, towards the end of my seventh year, and yesterday marked the halfway point in my three months.  How did I mark it?  I went to Taunton to watch cricket for the day and at around two o'clock I toasted my sabbatical with a pint of beer.  I took some reasonable pictures -  more to follow. 

I am becoming used to people in the congregation asking how my holiday is.  And I don't resent that at all.  While I am doing some study and reading and visiting other churches and ministers to try and pick up some fresh ideas, I have also taken it easy too.  I am walking the Cotswold Way, have watched two games of cricket in a row, I've taken hundreds and hundreds of photographs, tried to get the garden in some sort of order, and had the luxury of not being on duty on a Sunday or at a single meeting in the evening.  My Dad thinks I've retired early.  It's been great.   

In truth it took me about five weeks to fully unwind.  That sounds ridiculous but I offer it for the benefit of any ministers who might stumble across this.  Mine was a tiredness that wasn't going to be remedied by two weeks in the sun.  In fact it took five weeks in the rain. It might take others longer.  

I started off feeling guilty about being off and disorientated by living without deadlines.  That has gone and now that I have the ability and opportunity to relax I am doing so - without shame or guilt.  I'm still doing the study and reading etc, but I'm also having a great time too, making the most of this gift of time.  

Ministers are often pretty poor at taking their days off.  I am actually very good at it - religious even - and I was still exhausted by the time sabbatical came around.  A friend who is a minister has been wise enough to take a month out to recharge and their church were happy for this, recognising the need.  Another minister friend is just back after a sabbatical that became ten months away because they were so burnt out.  It's hard for others to get their heads around but being a minister is tough.  Exhilarating, frustrating, wonderful, funny, desperately sad, unpredictable, privileged, and sometimes it just breaks your heart - assuming it hasn't become hard.  Sabbatical is a good time to restore your factory settings and go again.  

Trego launches one; one bounce into the boundary boards.

If you are reading this as the member of a congregation, and your minister hasn't had a sabbatical, or they aren't good at taking days off, ask them why.  They probably need someone in their corner to push them a bit on this.  He or she almost certainly gets more criticism than encouragement each week, and that wears down anyone after a while.  Encourage them to take time out, they'll love you for it. 

Meanwhile, I have got to go.  The Test match isn't going to watch itself. 

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