Sabbatical Report from Pastor Wayne
There is a time for everything.
These were the verses from Ecclesiastes 3 that we read together as a family our last night in Providence, Rhode Island. They seemed fitting for together we sensed that this was both a sad moment but also a happy one.
We were sad because our family’s sabbatical was coming to an end. It was a really good sabbatical, and tremendously beneficial to our family. We were able to get some much-needed rest and spend time together as a whole family in a way that was enriching. Many of you have inquired about our time away, and so I thought I would try to use some of those questions to provide you with a report from our time away:
- Why did you choose Providence? We got this question a lot—both from people in West Michigan, but also people in Providence! We choose Providence for a couple reasons: we wanted to create some physical space between our normal responsibilities, and we wanted to go somewhere cooler (though it turned out to be scorching hot!). However, probably the biggest reason we landed on Providence was because I wanted to see a baseball game at Fenway Park. Providence also sounded like somewhere that an Orthodox Presbyterian minister should go on sabbatical!
- What fun things did you do? Besides visit two “famous” burial sites in church history?! As a family we took some time to explore Boston. We saw the opulence of the Gilded Age when we toured the VanderBilt summer home in Newport, Rhode Island. We went whale watching and spent time at the beach. Perhaps most memorably, Suzanne and I celebrated our 11th wedding anniversary at Fenway Park watching the Toronto Blue Jays trounce—I mean embarrass, humiliate, shame, thoroughly and utterly defeat—the Boston Red Sox by a score of 28-5.
- Where did you go to church while on sabbatical? We attended a couple different churches on sabbatical. For several weeks we attended Godspeed Church (an evangelical Baptist church), pastored by an acquaintance of ours we made in Edinburgh. We also attended Christ Reformed Presbyterian Church, Trinity PCA, and Grace Harbor (this was where we attended evening services). Each of these churches encouraged us in different ways.
- What did you work on while there? After making a couple different proposals about what I would work on during the sabbatical, it was ultimately recommended that I primarily spend time resting and reconnecting with family. So, rather than working on specific “projects” I spent time reading mystery novels, history, culture, leadership, and biblical theology., I’ll share some of the specific titles in future pastor’s posts, but my top three were probably Strange New World (Carl Truman), Exodus Old and New (Michael Morales), and The Heart of Anger (Christopher Ash and Steve Midgley).
- What was the biggest benefit of the sabbatical to you personally? Two things stand out. First, having the time and space to reestablish my devotional routines to cultivate my communion with Christ was greatly beneficial. Second, with the normal pace and pressures of ministry, I sometimes feel anxious about the time that I miss with my wife and kids (and anxious about my distracted spirit when I am with them). In this regard, having six weeks of time to reconnect was a huge gift.
- What do you think the biggest benefit of the sabbatical will be to your work? I think the biggest benefit to the church in granting me a sabbatical is that I think I’m coming back a healthier Christian. Healthier in many ways: physically, emotionally, relationally, and spiritually. And as a healthier Christian, I hope I can be a healthier pastor to the congregation the Lord has called me to serve.
- Did it seem as fast to you as it did to us? Thankfully, we were able to avoid sabbatical without that panicked feeling like time was passing by too quickly. One of the Scripture passages that the Lord brought to my mind as sabbatical was drawing to a close was Hebrews 4 where we are reminded that as Christians we are pilgrims still walking by faith toward a better, more lasting rest. This side of Jesus’ return, we’ll have glimpses and reminders of that eternal rest from God in things like Sundays, vacations, and (in my case) sabbaticals. But rest is not our default state here. There is work to be done now. This has proven to be a helpful reminder for me as I get back into pastoral work.
I want to thank the Sabbatical Committee (Melisa McGinnis, Ken VanderMolen, and Nikki Veurink), the OPC’s Committee on Ministerial Care, and the Harvest congregation for supporting our sabbatical. I also want to thank the elders for granting my family this time away (all while carrying significant and wearying burdens themselves). You have given us a gift the significance of which you will probably never fully know. Thank you!
Habits of the Household: Practicing the Story of God in Everyday Family Rhythms by Justin Whitmel Earley
Earley, building on other work on how our habits form us, applies these concepts to the family, illustrating how he and his young family have sought to build habits or liturgies into their daily discipleship. I used some time on sabbatical to think about what habits I want to prioritize in my family in the next couple years.
Exodus Old and New: A Biblical Theology of Redemption by L. Michael Morales
Written in an accessible way, Morales skillfully opened up the Scriptures to demonstrate how exodus motif is woven throughout Scripture and to show that to come to a full understanding of the work of Christ, we must begin to grasp how Christ, as the Greater Moses and David’s better Son, leads his people successfully out of their exile from God and slavery to sin and into the divine presence.
This was the best book that I read on sabbatical. Truman provides a compelling description of the intellectual developments that have led to the sexual revolution, same-sex marriage, battles over pronouns, and so-called gender reaffirmation surgery. This is a book that should be promoted and taught on.