Sabbath Life Program Enriched Clergy Participants: New Groups Open for 2023
In today’s fast-paced world, the idea of taking a Sabbath day of rest seems next to impossible. With calendars crammed full of appointments and to-do lists and with email inboxes that never seem to empty, the idea of Sabbath has been regulated to a few minutes a few times a week or to a few hopeful hours at best. Sadly, for many, the idea of ceasing to work for even a short period of time is completely foreign. Is the idea of Sabbath out-of-date in our modern times or better yet, how can we revive this important ancient tradition and incorporate it in our lives today?
In August, eleven clergy persons committed to making this idea of Sabbath a reality in The North Georgia Conference’s first Sabbath Life group. One Monday a month for four months, these clergy from across the conference cleared their calendars and gathered for holy time away on a quiet farm located just outside the hustle and bustle of suburban life in Cumming, Georgia. The group would begin their day by working in the garden, followed by a time of worship. Then they would gather for Communion and a farm-to-table meal followed by two hours of silent time. The day ended with a group reflection before the participants began the drive home, back into a world of activity and demands. The group had its last gathering in November. The feedback from the Sabbath Life pilot group has been overwhelmingly positive.
When asked to evaluate the elements of the Sabbath Life day, almost all of the participants answered that each part was vital to the overall experience. For some, the best part of the day was connecting to the earth by working in the garden. One clergyperson commented,
“I have learned a lot through the metaphor of farming, and gained significant resources shared with me by our leaders. It has helped me keep perspective on a difficult situation in my ministry, that there are seasons in ministry, but God is constant.”
Another gained insight from planting seeds. She said,
“This experience has taught me to let go and allow God to take control. Things as simple as dropping a seed in the earth and coming back a month later and seeing plants and vegetation. I did nothing and God did everything to provide the increase. This helped me realize I have no control in the outcome. I'm challenged to trust God. What would happen if I released everything to God in this way?”
The two hours of quiet time in the Sabbath Life day were described by one participant as “Heaven
” and by another as a “precious gift
.” One person described her experience,
“I watched a spider spin a web, a marvelous jewel, even though I don’t like spiders. I felt the sun warm me and knew it was God’s touch on my face…My whole body just melted into this time.”
Taking a Sabbath day within a community of peers was another element that enriched this experience. Many of the clergy in this group might have recognized names and faces, but enjoyed spending time getting to know their colleagues in a relaxed and non-stressful setting. One participant reflected on the bonding within the group,
“Walls come down, relationships are formed and we discover that we have more in common than we could have ever imagined because we never slowed down to pay attention before.”
When asked what they learned about Sabbath through their 4-month Sabbath Life experience, participants shared…
I learned how my soul thirst for Sabbath - rest, being with God, changing of gears from church work to spiritual renewal. This experience has convinced me that I do have time in my schedule to have regular Sabbath days - days with God. Actually, I cannot afford NOT to schedule such time.
My main takeaway is learning to schedule Sabbath. If it weren't for these 4 days on my calendar, I never would have stepped away. But I'm so glad I did. I tend to think of Sabbath as something I can do with my leftover time or only when time allows. In my age and stage of life, time is never going to simply allow for Sabbath. There will always be tasks to do, but Sabbath is one of my required tasks and I need to make time for it.
This was truly a beautiful experience. Often pastors don't take the time they need for sabbath without realizing that they also need to be fed if they are to continue to feed others.
Taking this time was the answer to overcoming burnout.
One of the best synopsis or advertisements for joining the next Sabbath Life cohort comes from one of the participant evaluations.
"I have no idea what the future holds, but from this experience, I'll keep going today.”
Join the Next Sabbath Life Group or Wander & Wonder Hiking Group
Sabbath Life: Rest in the Garden
Starting in February 2023, The North Georgia Conference will sponsor two 4-month Sabbath Life groups (one meets Mondays and one meets Thursdays) for our clergy looking to incorporate the practice of Sabbath into their busy lives. Click here if you are interested in participating in the next Sabbath Life clergy group
February 20; March 20; April 17; May 15 (Feb 27 is inclement weather make-up)
February 23; March 23; April 20; May 18 (March 2 is inclement weather make-up)
Wander & Wonder Clergy Hiking Group
If you are looking for a more physically active Sabbath-like experience, consider joining a newly launched clergy hiking group. Click to find out more Wander & Wonder: a clergy hiking group