On the 27th of July 1980 at my home church in Everett, Pennsylvania I was ordained as a minister of Word and Sacrament by the United Church of Christ. That means that this year will mark the 40th anniversary of my ordination. Also, on the 12th of July it will be 26 years since I arrived in Kent to become the Minister of the Maidstone United Reformed Church.
Every ten years ministers in the URC are encouraged to take a sabbatical. Sabbaticals are a period of leave that is intended to be a time of personal enrichment. I had my last sabbatical in 2010 when I was the Chaplain at Caterham School and I will be taking sabbatical leave this year. I have applied for grants from two sources in the denomination and also from the Coward Trust to help with travel costs.
I want to minimise the disruption to our congregational life by my absence so I will divide the sabbatical periods rather than have one long period away. As usual, I will be taking all of the services during Lent and Easter. After our AGM on April 14th I will be away until mid-June. The second period of the sabbatical will be from early August to mid-September. By scheduling things in this way I will still be taking 34 services through the year which is more than my 50% scoping requires.
As it happens Revd Dr Catherine Ball at St Ives URC is also taking a sabbatical this year. Catherine has agreed to cover pastoral emergencies, hospital visits and funerals in my absence and I will do the same for her when she is on her sabbatical from September through November.
I am grateful to the denomination and congregation for this time of refreshment and renewal.