The United Methodist Church encourages pastors at churches for seven consecutive years or more to enter a season of renewal leave. This program allows congregations to support their pastors with the gift of extended time away from ministerial duties and responsibilities. Pastors use the respite from congregational leadership for reflection and renewal, which often includes travel, scholarly research, and immersive experiences with different cultures and traditions. Renewal periods are not vacations, but times for intentional exploration and reflection and for regaining enthusiasm and creativity for ministry.
He said to them, "This is what the Lord commanded: 'Tomorrow is to be a day of sabbath rest, a holy sabbath to the Lord. Exodus 16:23
Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed. Mark 1:35
When a pastor, our pastor, feels called by the Lord to spend time with Him, how can we do anything but honor that divine request?
There is never a good time to take a leave. Many can probably even relate that feeling to taking days off work or a vacation. It always sounds good...until it's time to go. And then it often seems like you work twice as hard and long to get ready to go.
I remember feeling that way before I did my Walk to Emmaus many years ago when we lived in Lima. Andrew and Michael were in elementary school. I thought that if I went during the summer, it might be easier. Then came arranging care and rides for them and having meals prepared. By the time that the day came for the Walk to begin, I was a bit stressed and honestly thought about not going. Another mother with young kids who was in my Bible Study said she remembered feeling that way and then when she got there, she never wanted to leave. That sounded great, but I had a hard time imaging that I would feel that way.
We were not allowed to wear watches while on the Walk. Boy that first day, I was sure watching the angle of the sun to guess the time and then hoping that the boys were where they were suppose to be! On Saturday, there was a Communion service like none other. The whole day was full of the love of God. My friend was right...I never wanted to leave that feeling. The entire experience brought me closer to the Lord in an amazing way.
So how can I, who never wanted to leave time in the presence of my Lord, want anything other than that for Dale?
My hope for Dale is also based upon the experience of a previous pastor. Before living in Lima, we lived in Anderson Township. I was on the Pastor Parish Relations Committee when our Pastor, Dan, asked for a leave. His request was also granted. Through his experience, I began to appreciate the path of a pastor. A teacher describes a career choice at a high level. We delve deeper then into the choice of elementary, middle school, high school etc. education. And then comes life experience and wisdom. The teaching career becomes richer, deeper and may remain on the instruction path or may move toward administration or guidance or another avenue. I pray that Dale will experience what Dan was able to by taking the pastoral career path and adding his experience, wisdom, growth, and divine guidance to return in a deeper relationship with His God and clear calling on his going forward days.
In fact, I truly wish that we as a congregation can have our own renewal...our own Walk with our Lord during this time.
Please join me in prayer:
We believe You work in the lives of those who love You, using all things for Your glory. We trust that in this renewal time, You will be at work in Dale's life and in our lives. We pray that God will refresh him and us in body, renew him and us in mind, and refill his heart and ours with the depths of Your love.
Whether together or during a time apart, may this church body faithfully serve you, God, with compassion, energy, and love.
Draw our hearts to You,
Guide our minds and fill our imaginations,
Control our wills, so that we may be wholly Yours.
Use us as You will, always to Your glory, and the welfare of Your people,
Through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, Amen.