by Fr. John Reeves
There are several benefits to a sabbatical: Some, such as rest and renewal for a pastor, are more immediate. Other benefits are residual. During my sabbatical three years ago, the parish was charged to develop a more self-reliant model of ministry in my absence. Administrative matters had to be dealt with in the absence of the priest and a working model of collaborative decision-making came into existence during that time.
In the ensuing time, this model has been maintained and expanded. Deacon Alexander Cadman now serves the parish as its full-time ministry coordinator, continuing to hone his skills which were greatly on demand while I had been away. The Parish Council continues to work together as a single unit, furthering our goals and looking forward to our future.
Such harmonious administration in the parish also means that when the priest now takes a vacation, things that need to be done don’t simply get put on hold until he returns. Lay leadership has taken stock of its own responsibilities and continues to press ahead.
Consequently, after three weeks in my Texas homeland—a time spent visiting families, attending reunions, co-officiating at a wedding for a former student in Houston (Jab Tannous), and capped off by a visit to New Orleans en route home (an homage to Matushka’s Cuban and French ancestry)—I could return without dreading a mound of unfinished work or unattended situations.
I could come back, rested and renewed a bit knowing that Vacation Bible School would be wrapping up another successful summer thanks to Deacon Mark and those that volunteered; that we would soon celebrate our parish feast of Pentecost together and go picnic in the park afterwards; and that we could then have the double joy of David Smith’s ordination on the Feast of Ss. Peter and Paul and the wedding of Paul Petrogeorge and Larissa Moser the next day.
In other words, I stopped working during vacation. I rested though it sounds like I was very busy. In short, I relaxed. But the parish did not slow down a bit. That’s a great stress reliever, an ongoing benefit of that sabbatical three years ago which keeps paying dividends even now.