The Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) denomination provides recommendations for congregations and ministers that are put into place in order to maintain healthy and dynamic practices of ministry. Disciples of Christ congregations are encouraged to grant full-time ministers three months of sabbatical every five years of ministry. Here are a few reasons why, according to the Disciples of Christ Guidelines for Sabbatical/Renewal Leave:
“Congregations expect much of their ministers and ministers expect much of themselves. In healthy relationships between congregations and their ministers, there is a sense of mutual care. The minister cares for the members of the congregation and they also care for the minister. Temperament and practice must find a balance for healthy ministry. Everyone needs time away periodically to reflect, renew and recover the work/rest rhythm necessary to complement effective ministry. A Sabbatical/Renewal Leave offers the minister time for reassessment of his or her ministry, which can be difficult to do while engaged in the day-to-day tasks for ministry. By changing the scene and the pace as well as engaging in different activities, ministers find themselves enriched spiritually, mentally and even physically.”
Phil’s sabbatical will be from January 2 to April 2. During this time, please refer all pastoral concerns to Rev. Bowen-Marler (firstname.lastname@example.org).
A note from Phil…
Serving as a minister at Brentwood is one of the true joys of my vocational life. I express my deepest gratitude to the board for extending this time of sabbatical study leave and renewal. I also express my appreciation to a number of volunteers helping cover some bases that will make sure all of the regular activities I’m part of will continue. I’m also immensely grateful to Emily for her most capable leadership in every respect, as well as that of the staff and lay leadership of Brentwood.
During this time, I will focus on three related projects, all related to my work as a minister at Brentwood:
First, and most central, I’m immersing myself in affect theory as related to preaching and worship. Broadly speaking, this studies the way people experience, process, and understand their world through feeling and emotion. I contend that progressive preaching frequently runs the risk of making listeners at times feel more fatigued than inspired, especially when emphasizing social justice-themed sermons on a regular basis. It’s not that such themes shouldn’t be addressed (quite the opposite), but care toward how they are addressed is paramount. As such, I’ll be trying to develop ways to faithfully address social justice themes from the pulpit that help listeners experience feelings of inspiration and encouragement, so that they leave the worship space feeling renewed and inspired. It’s no secret that evangelicalism connects with people’s deep emotions in powerful and significant ways; I’ll be exploring how and why progressivism might also connect with people’s emotions in powerful and significant (albeit different) ways as well. The idea is for worship to be a site of joy and celebration, even as it’s a space where we deeply engage the most pressing matters of our day.
Second, I’m researching the role and power of Christian rhetoric as related to “pro-life” conversations, as well as the urgency of developing constructive alternatives. The way Christians often speak about pro-life issues is hollow, duplicitous, and vacuous — yet at the same time deeply pervasive. Why is this the case? Why are there so many inconsistencies among those most likely to invoke pro-life rhetoric? And how can progressive communities of faith engage this great divide with integrity and justice? My wager is that there’s more commonality than we’re often led to believe, and if progressives were better at their messaging in this regard then we could better work together toward common sense and the common good by both reducing the number of abortions in this country and truly caring for all life.
Third, I’m interested in examining the most misused, misunderstood, and misguided passages of the Bible (e.g., “the poor will always be with you;” Jesus’s commandment to his disciples to buy swords; Paul’s admonition that those who don’t work shouldn’t eat, etc.). There are several of these that I might work into a sermon series for 2019 or possibly even a book. This is of great interest to me.
I view all three of these projects as exceedingly important for the life of the church, at Brentwood and beyond. While I might receive a cursory understanding of one or more of these dynamics at various points along the way, it’s only by taking sabbatical study leave that I will be able to engage them with the depth necessary for true growth and pastoral/spiritual formation. I thank you for the gift of sabbatical study leave and trust it is of mutual benefit to my spiritual journey and to Brentwood Christian Church.
I welcome your questions about any or all of these projects! I hope you find them to be of interest as well. 🙂
Deep, deep thanks.