Dear people of the Diocese of the Central Gulf Coast,
“Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” Matthew 11:28-29
The notion of taking time and space for rest and renewal is a part of the rhythm of creation itself, and it is an essential characteristic of the life of the people of God. The Bible highlights that such rest and renewal come at various times---daily, weekly, occasionally—the sabbatical being the occasional and extended time. It is for that reason that I write you.
To speak to you of taking a sabbatical churns up in me great gladness, gratefulness, and humility. I am very glad to be given the opportunity to step away from the demands of serving you as your Bishop. Having before taken a sabbatical as a parish priest, I know its value. I cherish finding once again the joyful passion of God’s vocational call to holy work that too often can be crushed by the business and busyness it requires.
I am grateful to you and the Standing Committee for supporting my sabbatical. I am keenly aware that a sabbatical is typically reserved for clergy and academicians. That is a shame. To be allowed the time and space to reaffirm and renew one’s sense of vocation is something that would benefit many. And so, I am not only deeply glad and grateful, I am humbled to be afforded this time of rejuvenation.
My letter of agreement called for this in my fifth year of serving as your Bishop, which would have been in the summer of 2020. Any plans to do so that year were quickly shelved.
Officially, I will be away from Sunday April 2 through Friday July 2. I am still making plans, but I have three main goals. First, I have never been to Europe, and more specifically to England. I had planned to go in 2020, and I had hoped for my family to join me. To that end, we had purchased tickets and made reservations to do so. That is again our plan for twelve days in June. Secondly, I want to discover something that I once loved, but I lost along the journey of life. That is sailing. In April and May I will take a series of multi-day sailing lessons. Finally, I want to attempt something I never have dreamed of doing, that is to write a book.
Specifically, I will not be writing a book so much, but will be compiling and reflecting on the stories that have been shared with me by those I have confirmed, received and reaffirmed over these last eight years. This will be quite an undertaking. I have hundreds of letters. I do not know how to write a book. And the idea of authoring a book raises a deep-seated insecurity about the art of writing itself. To begin, I have registered for a workshop on spiritual writing. I do not foresee finishing the book while I am away, but I do hope to begin and accomplish much. To again spend time with the stories shared with me is something I greatly anticipate.
An important demand of a sabbatical is to make a complete break from the usual rhythm of work. Thus, I will not respond to any calls, texts, or emails. In my absence, the business and ministry of the Diocese goes on. I have complete trust in the staff at the Duvall Center to keep our ministry moving forward. Should there be a pastoral emergency or extraordinary situation, I have asked Bishop George Young to act on my behalf. He will have no office hours, no other pastoral duties, and no other authority. In the event of an emergency, the Duvall Center staff will contact Bishop Young. Finally, I am grateful to our three retired Bishops, The Right Reverends George Young, Ci Jones and Steven Miller, who have agreed to make Episcopal visitations while I am away. Their presence will maintain my commitment to you that each church in our diocese receives an annual Episcopal visitation.
Diocesan Staff Contacts while I’m away:
Pastoral emergencies and vocational discernment:
The Rev. Canon Ashley Freeman, Canon to the Ordinary | firstname.lastname@example.org
Building issues, property emergencies and financial issues and questions:
Dwight Babcock, Diocesan Administrator | email@example.com
School for Ministry:
The Rev. Dr. Joy Blaylock, Dean | firstname.lastname@example.org
Mary Poss, Secretary to the Bishop | email@example.com
Once again, thank you for this opportunity. It is a tremendous privilege to serve as your bishop, and the gift of time apart to prepare for the next season of my episcopate means more than I can say.
With joyful thanksgiving,