Early next year I will be taking three-month sabbatical. I anticipate that my last Sunday will be 5th February, coinciding with our evening celebration of Candlemas (though I will participate in the annual wedding preparation morning on 11th February). I will be back at work on Monday 15th May.
My sabbatical will have two foci of interest. One is to travel to Sri Lanka and re-establish contact with a Sri Lankan friend and Anglican priest who studied at the University of Kent about 15 years ago, living in Whitstable when I was there as Team Vicar. My other focus will in in Britain, looking at churches where congregations gather for services which are just once a month.
In the coming months I will explain more about these two projects.
The last Sunday before the sabbatical will be Candlemas, our celebration of the occasion when Mary and Joseph brought the newborn Jesus to the Jerusalem Temple. There they were welcomed by two faithful old people, Simeon and Anna, who were filled with joy and hope for the future when they saw Jesus. Knowing that salvation had come, Simeon famously said: “Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace.”
I too will “go in peace” knowing that our churches will be in good hands during the three months of my absence. The Rev’d Catherine Wilson, our curate, will be supported by a number of retired clergy including Pearl Anderson, as well as our parish administrator Anna Picken and our churchwardens and PCCs.
I have been ordained and serving as a priest for now over 22 years. A sabbatical gives an opportunity to pause and reflect on that ministry and on the future. The Church of England does not treat sabbaticals as long holidays but insists that they be relevant to ministry, with the expectation that we write and reflect on our time away.
I plan to keep you in touch with my adventures via some form of diary, possibly online, but certainly in the monthly magazine. And will be asking you to hold what I do in your prayers, as well as praying for Catherine and the the team in my absence.