One of the benefits given to Episcopal priests and bishops in our letters of agreement is sabbatical time. We accrue a certain number of weeks of sabbatical leave each year and can take those weeks after between four and seven years of service. This April marks the beginning of my seventh year as Bishop of Western New York and I will be taking twelve weeks of sabbatical and four weeks of vacation between April 17 and August 17.
Sabbaticals have several purposes. Basically it is to give concentrated time to think and read and explore some specific area that will enhance and re-energize our ministries. It is an opportunity to step away and get some perspective and to be freed from the everyday demands that can sometimes be overwhelming.
During my sabbatical I will be focusing on three areas:
I will be responding to some invitations to preach and teach from several Dioceses, religious orders and seminaries. I am looking forward to be able to deeply engage a wide variety of communities. I am particularly interested in how these different communities are responding to the challenges facing Christian communities in the world today.
I will be visiting a variety of Dioceses and talking with my fellow bishops, their staffs and some diocesan leaders. I am exploring what these different Dioceses are doing in terms of programming, congregational support, vision and mission. I am again exploring how these dioceses are responding to the challenges facing particularly Episcopal congregations today.
I will be also be thinking and reflecting and praying about the direction of the Diocese of Western New York during the final period of my episcopacy and the options available to me in setting the stage for the transition at the end of my episcopacy. I will be reading and consulting and exploring both historical and contemporary models. I will also be reflecting on the first part of my episcopacy and how that will inform the second part.
I will miss the weekly visits to congregations, which is one of my favorite parts of the ministry of a Bishop. I will also miss the daily engagement with the committees, commissions and other groups who do much of the work of the Diocese of Western New York. I will miss working with Diocesan staff and benefiting from their creativity, faithfulness and humor.
I ask that you keep me in your prayers this spring and summer as I will keep you in mine and I look forward to sharing with you what I learn when I return in August.