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Sam's Summer Sabbatical

Dear church family,

I’m writing to let you know that I’m planning to take a Sabbatical over the summer months of 2024. The term ‘Sabbatical’ comes from the word ‘Sabbath’, God’s provision for his people of a regular rhythm of rest amidst all the fruitful labour that he calls us to. In the Oxford Diocese, clergy are encouraged to take a 3-month Sabbatical every 10 years of ordained ministry. Believe it or not (and I find it hard to!) I've now been ordained for coming up to 11 years. Lucy and I have both felt we would benefit from taking up this provision, not because we’re exhausted or burned out, but because we hope to be fruitful in God’s service over a lifetime and know how important it is to pace ourselves (something that doesn’t come naturally to either of us!).

When will our Sabbatical be? 

Monday 13th May - Sunday 1st September. My final Sunday will be Sunday 12th May, and my first day back will be Monday 2nd September. 

What are our plans? 

The diocese gives three goals for a Sabbatical: Rest- taking time to recharge physically and spiritually; Renewal- taking time for personal and theological growth; Retreat- taking some intentional quiet time away for dedicated time with God. 

I plan to begin the Sabbatical with a walking retreat- taking a week to walk a long-distance footpath (possibly the West Highland Way), and enjoy time in God’s creation, with plenty of time and space for prayer. I’ll get back to the second half of term, in which I have enrolled on a Sabbatical study programme called ‘Dynamics of Biblical Change’ with Biblical Counselling UK, to help me grow in my pastoral care. I also have a long list of books I’ll enjoy having more time to read and a long list of neglected friendships from over the years, which I will enjoy having more time to rekindle. Over the school summer holidays we will head off to Europe for a long family summer holiday- our time of rest (as restful as a holiday with 4 small children can be!)

What will happen on Sundays?

Over the Sabbatical, we will not attend Trinity at Four or Holy Trinity on a Sunday. We will take the opportunity to visit friends at other churches around the country, and we hope to learn lots from elsewhere to bring back with us! 

Being a pastor has some strange quirks. One of them is that your flock are also your friends! Your church family (who you need as much as they need you!)is also your workplace! So it will be very strange for us to disconnect from church for this season. But the advice we’ve received is that it will be very difficult for it to be a genuine Sabbatical if we keep coming along to church together! For much of the time we will still be in Henley, and will always enjoy seeing church family socially, and bumping into you all around and about! Please don’t feel like that’s a problem- it will be a blessing for us! 

I expect our Sunday services to go from strength to strength under the capable leadership of Andy Cowan, with the support of the staff team. Andy will do more preaching than usual, but will be supported by a larger number of guest preachers than we would usually have. 

How will my role be covered in my absence? 

In addition to Sundays, the staff team will cover my other various responsibilities, with the support of Duncan. Peter will continue to be the point of contact for all matters children and youth. Where there are pastoral issues that crop up, Andy Cowan will be the natural point of contact, in conjunction with our Life Group leaders. The elders will continue to oversee the spiritual needs of the church more generally, and Wiz and Jo will ensure that all matters administrative are well managed. Aren’t we blessed with a fabulous team who serve us all? Please pray for them in my absence. 

What can you be praying for? 

  • Please pray above all that the Lord would work deeply in me Lucy and the kids over the Sabbatical. We long to deepen our relationship with him, and to seek his will for the years ahead here in Henley. 

  • Pray for the time between now and 13th May. There is lots to do, and we’d love to serve wholeheartedly and leave things in as good a shape as we can before the Sabbatical begins. 

  • Pray for us all as a church family- that the Sabbatical period would be a time of Spiritual growth and energy across our church family. 


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