NOTE: The Sabbatical has been postponed until May 2022.
Here are some FAQs (frequently asked questions) about the Clergy Renewal Program (aka Sabbatical): these answers were taken from the grant application that was submitted by Administration Committee, Miriam and Glenn.
When will this happen? May 1 will be Miriam and Glenn’s last Sunday at First Pres, and they will return to the church September 6. In addition to the 3 months of sabbatical, the Leupolds are taking a month of their vacation after the sabbatical – this combination was recommended by other colleagues.
What is the theme of the sabbatical? As a theme for our congregation and co-pastors’ renewal time, we have chosen the three phases of Christian pilgrimage: release, receive, return. Our co-pastors will take a break from the labors of ministry (release), have a time of remembering their purpose and call to ministry while engaging in activities that make their hearts sing (receive), and then head back to the congregation, rejuvenated by this time of renewal (return). The congregation will let go of (release) the pastors and established patterns for four months. We will gain (receive) new insights into our roles and a new understanding of the breadth of our work. We will seek to strengthen our already strong relationship with our pastors and look for ministry responsibilities that we need to be doing, going forward (return).
What will that look like for Miriam and Glenn and the congregation? As pilgrims we need to take time to release in order to receive. Our pastors will take a pilgrimage to the home of the Presbyterian faith, Scotland, walking labyrinths there and in France and the U.S. Through history, walking a labyrinth has served as a mini- pilgrimage. The congregation will take the next step in launching a labyrinth ministry, the seed of which has already been planted by the pastors. Our pastors will spend time with family and friends, birdwatching, hiking and biking. Our pastors’ activities and the congregation’s activities offer a model for balanced living, using the stages of pilgrimage: release, receive, return.
Why is FPC embarking on this sabbatical time? Glenn and Miriam have been serving at “First Pres” for 13 years and have helped shape our congregation into a place that feels great joy in its ministry. The pastors want to continue to minister in this setting, but we know they need to recharge spiritually, physically and emotionally, and the congregation needs the growth that will come from releasing them to do this. Pastors and congregation will gain from a time of embracing a different rhythm of life. Glenn and Miriam put it this way, “We believe we need a pilgrimage to places where we may hear afresh our call to ministry and renew our awareness of the ancient nature of our calling. We want to reconnect with the very beginnings of our ‘flavor’ of Christianity: Presbyterian; and there is no better place to do this than Scotland. Our renewal time will begin there so that it can influence the rest of our time.”
What do Miriam and Glenn see as their intended benefits? During their renewal time, they will release that which is life-draining, receive that which is of central importance, and return integrating new patterns for their lives. They’ll experience this in worship services, places of Presbyterian history, labyrinth walking, visiting family and friends (in VA, NC, OH, WS, IL, PA, WV & MN), as well as in hobbies like birdwatching, biking and hiking. Collectively these experiences will encourage installing the release-receive-return pattern into a central place in our daily living. They believe this ongoing practice (release-receive-return) will bring renewed balance and spiritual health for many years.
What will be FPC’s intended benefits? This renewal program will provide an opportunity for congregants to grow into new roles of ministry and leadership, to develop less reliance on our pastors to carry out our shared work of ministry, and to get to know each other on more collaborative levels. Our denomination considers the ordination of elders and clergy to be equal. This time is an opportunity for our elders to live that out.
Before the renewal begins, all First Pres members who wish will receive training in home and hospital visitation, a ministry that Glenn customarily conducts. This new spiritual practice will encourage us to express faith in more active and intimate ways, to nourish and care for each other, and we will continue those roles of ministry upon our pastors’ return.
Growing the labyrinth ministry will benefit the participation of new and emerging leaders, supported and encouraged by other members. We will engage our neighbors, and thus expand our partners in ministry, reaching out beyond our four walls. The congregation will benefit from various opportunities for fellowship around meals in members’ homes and neighborhood parks, which will encourage deeper ties.
What did Admin take away from the listening session about the sabbatical idea? We identified a number of hopes for how this renewal time will benefit Miriam and Glenn after 30 years without one. We hope that it will be a time of rest, renewal, and spiritual growth for them. We hope it will enable them to let go of the day-to-day details of leading and allow them to receive new energies and insights from God. We hope that their being able to spend extended time with family and other cherished ones will be meaningful and rejuvenating.
What will FPC do while Miriam and Glenn are away? Trained members of the congregation will take on hospital and congregational visitation. Our congregation is divided into geographic groups, and each of these “flocks” will gather at least once during this time for fellowship and renewal of relationships. As a next step in developing a labyrinth ministry, we will purchase a canvas with a stenciled labyrinth pattern and gather to paint it. We will also continue with our new initiatives by connecting with people in our church’s neighborhood and meeting in small groups to explore issues of race and privilege. We will pray for our pastors in worship and during the week. When our pastors return, we will celebrate with a picnic after worship.
What is a Labyrinth ministry? A labyrinth has been used through the centuries as a simplified pilgrimage. Taking a single, circuitous path to a center-point, the pilgrim then takes the same path out. Going toward the center is a time to release that which is holding the pilgrim back. The center is the place of encounter with the Divine, a place to receive. As the pilgrim leaves, the focus is on how the pilgrim returns to life changed for having had this experience. Miriam is a trained labyrinth facilitator and has conducted workshops for church members over the years. First Pres hopes to begin a labyrinth ministry. After borrowing labyrinths, we will soon purchase a canvas labyrinth. The congregation plans to paint the labyrinth pattern onto the canvas as part of this time. This ministry will become a permanent spiritual practice we will offer the Albany area by hosting walks for the community.
Who pays for all this? The fabulous news is that FPC applied for and received a grant from the Lily Foundation to fund Miriam and Glenn’s travels and time away as well as providing funds for the congregation to use for pastoral coverage.