It’s hard to believe that on Monday it will be five years since I got on a plane here in Edmonton and flew over to England for a three month sabbatical leave.
I have been in full time ministry for over thirty years, and this was the first (and so far, only) time I’d taken a sabbatical.
Our Diocese of Edmonton has a policy allowing clergy to take a sabbatical for up to three months once every seven years. However, I had never before served in a diocese that had the money to assist clergy in taking sabbaticals, and for most people (myself included) taking three months off work is just not a financial possibility. So it was a great privilege to be able to do it, with the help of the Diocese and the Anglican Church of Canada.
Bishop Victoria Matthews, God bless her, said to me, “The word ‘sabbath’ means ‘rest’, so don’t you dare bring me a sabbatical plan that is all work and study and no rest!” This gave me the freedom to plan for reading and study, yes, but also to take extended time to be with my family in the UK and to renew old friendships with people I hadn’t spent quality time with for years. Marci and three of our four children were able to join me for a month of my sabbatical, and we were able to help my Dad and Mum celebrate their fiftieth wedding anniversary.
I had been interested in Anabaptism for some time, and yet didn’t want to study ‘Mennonite’ Christianity so much, as it was and is somewhat tied to an ethnic identity, for better and for worse. The Anabaptist Network in the UK, by contrast, was not only not tied to an ethnic identity, it was also interdenominational and had produced a wonderful website that was my first guide to studying Anabaptism. So I decided to go to the UK, stay at the London Mennonite Centre (as it then was), do some intense reading about Anabaptism, and connect with the Network up and down the country.
I kept a sabbatical blog, starting it a few months before I left, to keep my parish and other friend informed on what I was thinking, reading, and doing. The blog still exists on the Internet and you are welcome to read it.
My sabbatical turned out to be just what the doctor ordered. I had been tired and on the edge of burnout for some time, and the opportunity to spend three months in unhurried reading and networking – not to mention rediscovering the country of my birth and the friendships that have been with me the longest – had a tremendous renewing effect on me. The folks at the London Mennonite Centre were tremendously helpful and hospitable to me (I spent three weeks of my sabbatical staying there and reading in their library), and I made new friendships which have been with me ever since. Oh yes, and we had a wonderful time at Mum and Dad’s anniversary!
Here are a few favourite photos from my sabbatical:
Front view of the London Mennonite Centre (just in case you can’t read the sign!!!):
Coffee time around the kitchen table at LMC:
Oakham, county town of Rutland, where my Mum and Dad live.
Reunion with my two oldest friends, Jan Barnes and Steve Palmer, and their families. Only our son Matthew was missing.
Peterborough Cathedral, not far from Oakham, which has become one of my favourite English cathedrals.
My Mum and Dad’s fiftieth wedding anniversary, May 19th 2007.
The famous ‘Eagle and Child’ (better known as the ‘Bird and Baby’) pub in Oxford, where C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien and the other Inklings met.
The wonderful village of Southminster, Essex, where I lived for six years as a teenager.
Vyv Wainwright and Jay Ridley, with whom I prayed Morning and Evening Prayer at All Saints’ Church almost every day when I was staying in Oakham.
Over the next few months I’m going to be reposting some of my favourite posts from my sabbatical blog, especially some of the book reviews. I hope you enjoy them!