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Sabbatical Q&A

When will the Collins be taking their sabbatical? How was the sabbatical policy developed?

The Central Florida Presbytery developed and recommended the sabbatical policy to its congregations. The entire policy can be viewed by clicking on the PDF below. While it is not a requirement, the Presbytery recognized the benefits to both pastors and congregations of a sabbatical period. As the Co-Pastors Collins are completing their seventh year at the church, members of Maitland Presbyterian began to ask how they could help support the pastors’ longevity in ministry here. The sabbatical policy was discussed and approved by the session last year and the sabbatical designated for the summer of 2022 after they have completed their seventh year in ministry. Their last day in worship before sabbatical will be Sunday, May 29, 2022. A sabbatical planning team was then formed compromised of members from the general congregation representing varied ages, leadership roles, worship services and tenures within the church. The members of the planning team are Beth and Rick Taylor, Terry and Carol Hadley, Cyndee and Scott Maxwell, Melanie Stein, and Laurie Rodriguez. This group represents a variety of ages, attend both worship services, and serve in leadership roles, including but not limited to Elder, Deacon, Stewardship, Trustees, Communication, Personnel, the PNC and COM.

What will the pastors be doing during the sabbatical time?

Megan and David Collins have served as the Co-Pastors of Maitland Presbyterian Church since 2015 but their history here started much earlier. Both Megan and Dave grew up in Central Florida and started their education as students of the preschool at what was then known as the First Presbyterian Church of Maitland. Dave became a member of the church as a teenager and joined the youth group. Megan volunteered on an outreach team while in college and then became an intern with the youth ministry staff. They were married in the sanctuary and explored their individual calls to ministry with the pastors. After graduating from college and then seminary they each served for ten years as pastors in churches in Iowa and Ohio, both separately and together, before God called them to a new chapter at Maitland. They then returned to serve at Maitland Presbyterian Church as Co-Pastors.

For the Collins, coming “home” to Maitland made it easy to reestablish in this city and come back into the church. At the same time, it made it difficult to truly know what it would feel like to be an outsider with this church family. Not many pastors answer the question “How are your mom and dad?” on their first Sunday in the pulpit! To lead the congregation to be a home for newcomers to our community, they must leave home to fully understand it. For the sabbatical time, the pastors will focus on this idea of a church home based on three core concepts: refuge, hospitality and belonging. The pastors will spend the first portion of their renewal leave traveling through Scotland, England and France to experience being an outsider seeking refuge, hospitality and belonging in countries new to them. This time of travel will also allow them time away with their two sons to be together as a family. The second portion of the sabbatical they will spend writing a book based on preaching materials they developed during a year long focus on Everything Jesus Taught.

What will the congregation do during the sabbatical time? During the sabbatical, worship leadership will be provided by a guest pastor. Having a single guest pastor (with the exception of one Sunday when he is away) will allow for continuity in the church's leadership and ministry. This pastor will also provide on call coverage for pastoral care emergencies as needed and moderate the session. The guest pastor will be introduced to the congregation on Sunday, April 24 in both worship services. Maitland Presbyterian has strong volunteer leaders on the session, the diaconate and the Stephen Ministry to ensure members are supported in the pastors' absence. Member Marjie McDonough will be serving as volunteer Care Coordinator to ensure that members experience the care and support of the church during this time.

Maitland Presbyterian Church has the leadership of 8 talented and committed staff members who will continue to lead their specific ministry programs and administrative responsibilities while also ensuring the church has their support. Even with extensive planning, unexpected needs and responsibilities will undoubtedly arise. It is in these moments that church volunteer leaders may find a new opportunity to serve the church without the pastors available to immediately address the need.

Throughout the summer, the congregation will be invited to think about how Maitland Presbyterian Church has been their home and reflect on their personal experience of the church. As a part of this process, a small structure resembling a house frame will be set up in the narthex. Members will be encouraged to attach photos, newsletter articles, or written memories to illustrate what has made the church their home. Notes or ideas of why Maitland Presbyterian is a place of refuge, hospitality and belonging would be written with markers on the wooden frame. When the pastors return, they will hear from the congregation more about their reflections. This project will be a special contribution to Homecoming Sunday in September, when we celebrate the church's birthday.

What happens after the sabbatical? After the sabbatical time, the pastors and congregation will take time to share their experiences over the summer. The goal after sabbatical is to have both pastors and congregation renewed and excited for the next chapter in ministry together. It is normal for there to be a readjustment period as the congregation and pastors resettle in their relationship together. If a congregation member has a concern or suggestion while the pastors are away, they can email it to or drop it in the mailbox outside of Pastor Megan's office. The pastors will respond to all calls, emails and notes within two weeks of their return.

Additional Q&A from Robert C. Saler’s Planning Sabbaticals:

I Work Hard Too! Why Don’t I Get a Sabbatical? In an ideal world, every worker should get a sabbatical to get re-centered in the things that make a vocation worthwhile. Congregations that are excited about the prospect of renewal leaves for their pastors might try to encourage their people to seek out similar opportunities in their own work; perhaps congregations can even serve as advocates or resource pools in trying to create those opportunities. But that said, there is a kind of spiritual intensity and 24-hour demand cycle that is, if not fully unique to pastoral ministry, at least always present within it. Pastors have to be spiritually “on” over long periods of time, and their church responsibilities mean that they (and, by extension, their families) are working when others are resting. The emotional, spiritual and physical intensity of pastoral ministry warrants special attention - not because it’s harder but because its challenges are unique. (Robert C. Saler’s Planning Sabbaticals)

Is This Just a Vacation? It may be that the pastor’s sabbatical has some activities in it that look a lot like things one might do on a vacation. So what makes this sabbatical and not vacation? The difference between vacation and sabbatical has less to do with activities and more to do with intent. What are the activities for? What is the purpose? A vacation is intended for pure relaxation and refreshment. A sabbatical, on the contrary, should be designed with this question in mind: “What activities will renew the pastor’s heart and ministry for the longer term ministry in the congregation?” A vacation is recreation; a sabbatical is focused renewal.

Sabbatical Policy
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