Sabbatical Sundays

Sundays … are now my favorite day of the week.

For more than 50 years, since childhood, Sunday has been mostly early out of bed, auto-start coffeemaker, get the family up and hustling, quick shower-n-shave, put on the suit, don’t spill coffee on the newly pressed shirt, don’t get a speeding ticket, don’t cuss slow drivers, don’t forget your music charts … and get to church on time!

Breathe. Confess sin. Unload gear. Have church!

Then, for the remainder of the day … rest. Well, nap.  Then, do it all again Sunday night.  Unless, like me, you saw the light and migrated over to the contemporary churches who realized that Sunday evening really was designed for some kind of sabbath.

Today, my typical Sunday is much different.  I still get up early, but not out of ‘alarm’, rather because my body just says, ‘get up’.  And, most often, it’s just time to go to the bathroom. Again.

As I enjoy my first few cups of freshly brewed coffee, I sit quietly. Usually, on my little back porch. And listen.  I listen to the wind, to the leaves rustling, to the birds singing, to the critters scuffling under the brush, to the rocker legs on my chair squeaking, and .. to the Spirit speaking.  I listen more. I hear the Spirit better.  I’m not rushed and hustled. I am still.  And, for moments at a time, all is well.

I announced to the last little church congregation where I served as worship leader, that I was taking a ‘sabbatical’. That was seven months ago.

‘ve never done this in my entire ministry life. I am still not certain what that concept even means to a protestant born Baptist like me.  We never stop. We never rest. We never quit. And, we sure don’t take ‘sabbatical’, whatever in the heck that means.

But, I am taking a sabbatical.  I am choosing to rest.  I am choosing to listen.  I am choosing to be led, rather than to lead.

I’ve never been provided a sabbatical in my entire life.  I was once assigned a time off the platform, by my pastor who loved me, because he saw the chaos and imbalance in my life and how that my un-wellness was affecting my family and all my teammates.  He was right.  And, it was time.  That sabbatical lasted about a year.  Maybe less, as I was invited back to occasional platform moments as the backup singer and keyboard player.  Within another year, I was back to the grind as the lead worship pastor.  That was 20 years ago.

I now know many pastor friends who are provided with sabbaticals, every two years or so, depending on their congregation’s determination of the ‘need’ and ‘purpose’ of the sabbatical period for their lead shepherd. The congregation and eldership actually place the Sabbatical into the job description, or contract, however the governance of said congregation might be structured.  This actually sounds like a Jesus principle.  And, it works.  And, my pastor friends are better off for it.

As the worship guy, musician, worship leader, whatever title you place on the “music director” — I have never been provided a Sabbatical.  I’m not bemoaning my churches, because it’s never been within their custom or tradition to provide such. And I willing signed up for the tasks for which I was hired. So, I’m grateful for the opportunities, but my Lord, sometimes the hours and the expectations were simply overwhelming.  And, I often saw the imbalance first, in the eyes and spiritual demeanor of the pastors and other staff members around.

So, I am choosing to take a sabbatical.  I am seven months in, and I’m not sure if I will ever return to a worship platform. And I’m ok with that, I think. Or, at least today, I’m ok with that.  Because, I am still. And I am quiet. And I am being led.

I attend virtual worship with several churches who I love, and who are loving me back.  And, who are fully aware of my personal sabbatical decision.  Occasionally, I pop in the back door of a congregational gathering, just to sit and soak. Just to be led. And to observe.

My faith is changing for the better and my theology is becoming enriched, as I engage with pastors and leaders who I have observed from a bit of a distance, but who are now becoming friends in the faith journey.  I am realizing that there is a wide variety of believers and Christ followers.

We love to camp out in the Red Letters of the gospels. We love to touch people not like us. We love to boast of Grace and Kingdom.  We mourn with those who mourn. We stand with those who are oppressed. We rescue those who are abandoned.  And we worship as those in desperate need of Grace and Peace and Love.

I am on sabbatical.  Or, maybe I am on a new path. Maybe this was in the Plan, all along.  #GRACE #PEACE #LOVE