What is a sabbatical?
A clergy sabbatical is a time set aside for the pastor to shift gears in order to rest, disengage, study, reflect, and travel in order to return to ministry refreshed and renewed in body, mind, and spirit. It is not a time for mid-career assessment or job search. Pastor Becky and St. Paul UCC have a written covenant to remain in ministerial partnership for a period of at least a year and a half after the sabbatical has ended. Sabbatical is more than a vacation from meetings, sermons, budgets, and pastoral care responsibilities. It is a time for Pastor Becky to receive spiritual nourishment and a change of perspective, to deepen her relationship with God, herself, and her family—a season of spiritual growth.
Do other clergy go on sabbatical?
A growing number of clergy are taking sabbaticals. Some denominations even require clergy to take sabbaticals after a period of service to a congregation. Provisions for sabbaticals are included among the recommended compensation guidelines from the Ohio Conference of the UCC. While Pastor Becky’s sabbatical will be the first St. Paul UCC has experienced directly, pastors who are familiar to St. Paul UCC, including Rev. Steve Nelson (retired, First English Lutheran Church, Wapakoneta), Rev. Becky Erb-Strang (St. Paul UCC, New Bremen), and Rev. John Manzo (St. Mark’s UCC, New Albany, IN), have all had sabbatical experiences. Statistically, sabbatical experiences result in longer pastorates and healthier relationships between pastor and congregation.
How long will Pastor Becky be gone?
Pastor Becky’s call agreement with St. Paul UCC laid out the parameters of her sabbatical, stating that after seven years of service to the congregation she would be granted a three-month period of sabbatical. September 2017 marked seven complete years of ministerial partnership between Pastor Becky and St. Paul UCC. Pastor Becky plans to add two weeks of her annual vacation time to her sabbatical leave, making the total time away a period of fifteen weeks, beginning Monday, April 29, 2019 and concluding Saturday, August 10, 2019.
What will Pastor Becky be doing during her sabbatical?
Along with time set aside for rest and reconnecting with family and friends, Pastor Becky is planning a study of the spirituality of music, which is central to her own spiritual identity, as well as the identity of the congregation. This will include multiple retreats under the supervision of a Certified Christian Spiritual Director, with time set aside for reading and reflection. The centerpiece of Pastor Becky’s sabbatical will be a spiritual pilgrimage to visit the birthplaces of several of the hymns that are most foundational to her own faith journey. You can find a detailed itinerary of her sabbatical later in this pamphlet.
How is the sabbatical being paid for?
Preparations for a clergy sabbatical have been underway at St. Paul UCC since before Pastor Becky’s arrival among us. The congregation has been setting aside sabbatical funds since around 2003 for the expressed purpose of covering extra expenses St. Paul UCC would incur during a sabbatical period. Pastor Becky will receive her normal salary and benefits package throughout her sabbatical. Additionally, St. Paul UCC and Pastor Becky were successful in their application for a sabbatical grant of over $47,000 through the Lilly Endowment’s National Clergy Renewal Program. The grants awarded through this program are quite competitive, and the selection committee is careful to accept the applications that show the greatest possibility of benefit to both pastor and congregation. Most of the grant funds are committed toward Pastor Becky’s sabbatical activities (detailed later on this page). However, $15,000 (the maximum allowed by the grant program) is set aside for expenses incurred by St. Paul UCC, such as partial compensation for the visiting Sabbatical Pastor. Additional church expenses will be paid from the aforementioned St. Paul UCC Sabbatical Fund.
Who will cover Pastor Becky’s responsibilities during her absence?
In cooperation with Northwest Ohio Association, Church Council has covenanted with Rev. Samuel J. Buehrer to serve as Sabbatical Pastor. Pastor Sam will begin serving the week prior to Pastor Becky’s departure and will conclude ministry among us a week after Pastor Becky returns. Pastor Sam will lead regular worship as well as officiate at special services, will provide day-to-day leadership for the staff, and will be available for visitation and other pastoral needs as they arise.
Who is Rev. Sam Buehrer?
Rev. Samuel Buehrer has deep roots in northwest Ohio. His parents still live in his hometown of Archbold. Sam graduated from Archbold High School, received his B.S. from Heidelberg, and his Master of Divinity from United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities, Minnesota. Sam was first called to be the pastor of Spencerville UCC in Spencerville, Ohio. After serving there for five years he accepted a call to First UCC in Galion, Ohio, where he served for almost 20 years. During that time, he was pastor to our own Pastor Becky Sunday, who was among his first class of confirmands in Galion. For the past six years, Sam has served as Senior Pastor of Sylvania UCC in Sylvania, Ohio. Pastor Sam enjoys camping, canoeing, backpacking, reading, and singing. He and his wife, Ellen, have two adult sons.
Whom do I call if I have a family or personal crisis?
If you are in need of a pastor, you may contact Pastor Sam Buehrer at 419-564-5271 or call the church office at 419-738-2215.
Whom should I contact for special prayer requests?
As always, you can contact the church office (419-738-2215 or
firstname.lastname@example.org) to have someone’s name added to the prayer list in the weekly bulletin. If you would like someone added to the email Prayer Chain, you may contact Hannah Kohler (email@example.com) or Pastor Sam (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Will the church just be in a “holding pattern” while Pastor Becky is away?
All of our regular ministries will continue to flourish while Pastor Becky is away. In addition to inspirational worship, vibrant summer programming such as the Summer Lunch Program and summer mission trip, will occur as usual. Also, it is important to remember that the sabbatical is a two-way process: while Pastor Becky is on her journey of reclaiming, reflecting, and renewing, we will embark on a journey as well. In many ways, the people of St. Paul UCC will travel alongside Pastor Becky, hearing guest musicians and presenters expound upon the same hymns Pastor Becky is studying. We will also be encouraged to reflect upon the songs that help bring meaning to our own spiritual lives. Finally, the summer of 2019 promises to be an exciting time, as St. Paul UCC will be participating in various celebrations surrounding the 50th anniversary of the moon landing.
Who will be taking care of special celebrations in 2019?
St. Paul UCC will be a point of interest for various tour bus groups traveling to Wapakoneta throughout 2019. Our Lay Ministries Coordinator, Tami Zwez, is providing administrative leadership for these events and will continue to do so during the sabbatical period. Kathy Haehn will also be working as a liaison between St. Paul UCC and the Wapakoneta 2019 Coordinating Committee.
Will Pastor Becky be in contact with St. Paul UCC during her sabbatical?
An important part of a sabbatical is to make a complete break from church responsibilities. The only people who will be in direct contact with Pastor Becky while she is on sabbatical will be her family. In the unlikely event that some extraordinary event would occur, Pastor Sam will communicate with Adrian to determine whether Pastor Becky should be notified.
Will Adrian be traveling with Pastor Becky?
Adrian’s ministry at Buckland UCC will preclude him from traveling with Pastor Becky for much of her sabbatical. At the conclusion of Pastor Becky’s hymn pilgrimage, Adrian will be meeting her in London for a period of two and a half weeks. He will also join her for a week of respite in the Adirondack Mountains in upstate New York near the end of the sabbatical time. Otherwise, Adrian will be remaining in Auglaize County, continuing in his regular duties at Buckland UCC and enjoying extra time with Pastor Becky when she is home.
What happens when Pastor Becky returns?
Pastor Becky’s first Sunday back (August 11, 2019) will include a brief “welcome back” liturgy as well as a fellowship dinner. In addition, an opportunity for the sharing of experiences—both Pastor Becky’s and St. Paul UCC’s—will be planned by Pastor Becky and the Sabbatical Planning Team.
How can I learn more about the sabbatical?
For more information, ask any member of the Sabbatical Planning Team (listed at the bottom of this page).
Pastor Becky’s Sabbatical Itinerary
Sun., April 28 Farewell worship and fellowship dinner at St. Paul UCC
Mon., April 29 – Fri., May 3 Opening retreat at Lial Renewal Center (Whitehouse, OH)
Sat., May 4 – Sun., May 12 At home; visiting family; research; preparing for travel
Mon., May 13 – Fri., May 31 Hymn Pilgrimage:
Mon., May 13—Travel to Plainfield, NJ
“How Can I Keep from Singing” (tune by Robert Lowry)
Wed., May 15—Travel to New York, NY
“Rejoice Ye Pure in Heart” (tune: MARION by Arthur H. Messiter)
Fri., May 17—Travel to Assisi, Italy
“All Creatures of Our God and King” (text: Canticle of the Creatures by St. Francis)
Tues., May 21—Layover in Paris, France
Wed., May 22—Travel to Bremen, Germany
“Praise to the Lord, the Almighty” (text and tune [LOBE DEN HERREN], by Joachim Neander)
Thurs., May 23—Travel to Mülheim (Heiligenhaus), Germany
“I Sing the Praise of Love Unbounded” (text by Gerhard Tersteegen)
Sat., May 25—Travel to Cologne, Germany
“All Creatures of Our God and King” (tune: LASST UNS ERFREUEN by Friedrich Spee)
Tues., May 28—Travel to Leeds, England
“All Creatures of Our God and King” (text paraphrased by William H. Draper)
Thurs., May 30—Travel to Peterborough, England
“Rejoice Ye Pure in Heart” (text by Edward Hayes Plumptre)
Sat., June 1 – Thurs., June 20 London respite (Adrian arrives June 4)
Fri., June 21 – Sun., June 23 Rest at home
Mon., June 24 – Tues., July 2 Reading retreat at Spiritual Center of Maria Stein (Reading list as follows):
Jeremy S. Begbie, Theology, Music and Time (Cambridge: University Press, 2000).
William Johnston, The Cloud of Unknowing (New York: Image Books, 1973).
James Jordan, The Musician’s Breath: The Role of Breathing in Human Expression (Chicago: GIA
James Jordan, The Musician’s Soul (Chicago: GIA Publications, 1999).
Don Saliers and Emily Saliers, A Song to Sing, A Life to Live: Reflections on Music as Spiritual Practice (San
Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2005).
Brian Wren, Praying Twice: The Music and Words of Congregational Song (Louisville: Westminster John
Knox Press, 2000).
Wed., July 3 – Wed., July 10 Visiting Ohio family and friends (Sister, Beth, arrives from Florida July 10)
Thurs., July 11 – Sat., July 27 Adirondack respite (Big Moose Lake, NY)
July 11-19—with sister, Beth
July 19-27—with Adrian
Sun., July 28 – Mon., July 29 Rest at home
Tues., July 30 – Fri., August 2 Closing retreat at Lial Renewal Center (Whitehouse, OH)
Sat., August 3 – Sat., August 10 Rest at home
Sun., August 11 Return worship and fellowship dinner at St. Paul UCC
Sabbatical Planning Team:
Jill Jarvis Jane Myers Rodney Schey
Wendy Schlenker Rollie Wellington Rev. Becky Sunday
“No storm can shake my inmost calm while to that rock I’m clinging.
Since Christ is Lord of heaven and earth, how can I keep from singing?”