Today it is one year that I began the three month sabbatical that lasted till the end of November. Wow! A year has passed already. Hard to believe.
Some of you remarked that my blogging during sabbatical was really helpful and some of you noticed that it had fallen off some as the experience drew to a close. Both good observations.
I thought I would do this "one year anniversary" posting, then probably shut this blog down. I might start up another--we will see. Anyway, some of you have asked for a sort of recap, and that is what I hope to do in this posting. First of all, I will link you to a worship service in which I, our Moderator Steph Fassnacht, and my coach, Geoff Davis, reflect on the sabbatical experience from different perspectives. If you attend ECOB and were in church on January 10, 2010, you have already heard this--but for the rest of you, it may be interesting. Here is the link: http://www.ephratabrethren.org/100110_hackman.htm
Of course, that presentation was made eight months ago, and only one month after I had returned from the sabbatical. What does my perspective look like now? First of all, it was impossible to maintain the level of quiet, alone time for worship, reading and meditation that I had experienced while on sabbatical. I knew that would be the case; if it were not, I guess a sabbatical would not be necessary. On the other hand, I thought it would we easier than it has been to maintain a regular schedule of time for quality reflection. I has been hard, and as for all of us who work day by day, it requires a solid commitment of time and focus. So I keep on.
Secondly, and from a positive angle, I am able to sustain a somewhat different level of balance in my life, since being back from sabbatical. I have exercised more (though still not enough) and have been able to stay more in control of my schedule, rather than allowing the schedule to control me. This is huge, and has as much to say about where I draw my value from as it does about anything else.
Thirdly, several people have observed that I have more energy and passion in preaching, than I did for some time prior to sabbatical. I think that is true, though it may vary with the topic/content of the sermon.
Fourthly, I feel less driven than before, and certainly less concerned about many of the outward ways we would often measure church and more in tune with deeper and more significant elements, though these are much harder to discern and to consider in any qualitative way.
Fifthly, for some reason, I more comfortable with preaching less. I did hit the ground running when I cam back, especially in relationship to preaching, having preached something like 19 out of 21 Sundays from December through April. But then I only preach four of the nine sermons in the next series and seven of the 12 Sundays over summer. Now fall will see me in the pulpit all but three (or four) weeks til the end of the year. I think the 13 weeks of sabbatical helped me and the congregation understand that variety in the pulpit has its place. I am not reneging on what is one of the primary elements of my calling--preaching--but am striving to build a level of trust and empowerment in the congregation.
Well those are a few personal reflections. I think I will end this for now, and do a followup post later in which I reflect a bit on congregational health, before I sign off of this blog for good.