At our recent church business meeting I announced to our church that I am taking a sabbatical this year.  Since not everyone was at the business meeting, and since we didn’t go into a lot of details there, I figured I’d go into a bit more detail and answer some of the questions I’ve been asked.  Contrary to popular belief, a sabbatical is not an extended vacation, although there will be some extended down time.  So I wanted to take a few minutes, outline a bit about what I’ll be doing during this time.
For a number of reasons, we are splitting up the sabbatical into 2 sessions.  One shortly after Easter, and the other this summer.   In total, I am taking 10 weeks (part of that is my regular vacation too).  I’ll be taking 4 weeks in April/May, and then 6 weeks in July/August (half of the 6 weeks in the summer will be my normal vacation weeks.).

The first part of the sabbatical in May, is a time to refocus.  It seems hard for me to believe, but in August 1989, I packed up my ’79 Ford LTD and headed to Albany to start a campus ministry, and I’ve been in this for the past 21 years.  Over that time, Liz & I started a campus ministry at the University @ Albany, another one at Cornell University, and finally in 1999, we started the Vineyard here in Ithaca.

Part of being in full-time ministry is putting your head down and doing whatever comes next. There’s always another message to write, and another next step to take. In the midst of that, vacation ends up being a time to totally get a way from ministry and just have fun with the family.  One thing that this makes difficult is to simply have some time to step back, and just have some extended time seeking God, without the ongoing demands of ministry.  While things have gotten a lot better since the start of the year, the previous 18 months with the building project and other stuff that I’ve written about previously going on, the advice I got from some of my friends who were pastors was to take some time away to refresh and refocus.

So as I was thinking and praying about how to fit in four weeks in the spring, and would allow me to be here for Easter, as well as some of the stuff we want to do in late May, I decided that I would start the first part of my sabbatical on April 12. The very next day, I check my email and I had a note about an upcoming Vineyard Pastors’ Sabbath Retreat, and it started on, April 12 (seemed like a God thing)!  So after a quick chat with Liz, we signed up!  The retreat is in the mountains of Idaho (at the Living Waters Ranch…the picture above is from there). We’ve heard great things about these events and we are both looking forward to being out there for this.

The Vineyard national office covers the cost of the retreat, and another Vineyard church covered the cost of the airfare out to ID!  So, Liz and I will be gone 10 days for that.  We’ll get back from that, and then the following week head down to NYC for a 2-day conference on Emotionally Healthy Spirituality .  There is a pre-conference for pastors & spouses, and we’ll be going to that as well. (In May we’ll be starting a 9-week series on that topic, which I think is going to be really exciting!)

My major goals for this time are to connect with God, to connect with my wife & really be able to refocus on what God has for us here in Ithaca.

Let me wrap this up by answering one of the questions I assume people will wonder about…“Who is filling in while I’m gone?” As far as speaking on Sundays, James, who generally speaks once per month will continue doing that, taking one of the April Sundays that I’m gone, and one of the May Sundays.  (he’ll also be taking over my email while I”m going & changing the password so I’m not tempted to check it while I’m away.)  In addition two other Vineyard pastors, Bob Morris from the Wellsboro Vineyard and  Jeff Printy from the Vineyard in Irondequoit will be taking the other two weeks.

In addition, James Cherian and Bill Williams, who both serve on the church council with me, will oversee the day to day running of the church with the help of Moses Ong, our director of operations. so they are the guys to talk to while I’m gone.

When we first started the church, even taking a week vacation was difficult to do, but we have so many great leaders with our ministry teams and our kinships, that I know I can fully step away for this time to focus on what God has for me to focus on & know that the Ithaca Vineyard is in great hands!

So that’s the basics of the first part of my sabbatical, which is coming up really soon! I’ll write about the summer portion (which has the whole Wilson clan on the the other side of the pond) soon.

I’m sure some people might have questions…(this is as new to me as it is to you) if so , let me know.