I'm taking a 3 month sabbatical starting in May. This is something many Christian ministers find helpful. The Diocese of Rochester, within which I serve, used to recommend this every 7 years (although I see that their guidance now says 10 years).
The other day I was asked why we spend time in church (during sermons) talking about issues that may not be relevant for us today.
Unpacking the Question
On the face of it, it's a good question.
If I look out at the church family here, I can think of many subjects that speak directly into needs we know and feel. Maybe there are issues about unemployment, family life, over-demanding employers, ageing and dementia, the housing market, and so on.
With the engagement of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, people are discussing remarriage after divorce. Why do some clergy allow this and some not? Does this undermine the teaching that marriage is for life? Let's try and think clearly.
This coming Sunday is Remembrance Sunday. Once again, I find myself planning the sermon for Remembrance Sunday. Here is what happens on Remembrance Sunday here, and what I try to do when it comes to a sermon.
Bishop N. T. ("Tom") Wright, formerly Bishop of Durham, is a well-known biblical scholar. He has produced works that showcase his careful work, such as Jesus and the Victory of God.
A small note for Anglican clergy who read this blog.
Until very recently, when I led the "signing of the marriage registers" after a wedding, here is how I did it: 1. The groom signs 3 copies (the two marriage registers, and what will be their marriage certificate). 2. The bride signs 3 copies. 3. Witness 1, then Witness 2, sign all 3. 4. Lastly I sign both marriage registers, I sign the same box on the marriage certificate, and then I sign the declaration at the bottom of the marriage certificate.
I had a really interesting conversation this last week on the subject of what proportions of sermons here should be on which parts of Scripture. (I said that I try to aim at 1/3 each of Old Testament, Gospel, and rest of New Testament - after using some weeks for the occasional topical series).
On a Monday morning I'm always exhausted. Sundays take it out of me.
That means I often use the lion's share of Mondays to get admin done, or other things that take time but don't require the most intensive thought.
But over the years I've learnt the value of starting my preaching preparation early in the week.
(Before going further, I know: Sermon series preparation can usefully be done 6-9 months ahead, and you shouldn't first think about the passages you preach in the week before you preach them. Take that as read).
I cannot grow plants.
It's true that I'm not very good at gardening, or even at caring for house plants. But that's not what I mean. Even if I do remember to water them, put them in the right place, prune them, leave them alone when they need it - I can't make them grow. I cannot turn my care of the plant into cellulose and chlorophyll.
Which is also one of the most humbling, frustrating and relieving aspects of pastoral ministry.