As I sit down to write this page it is the Monday following the youth-led worship service of May 21st. What a wonderful experience the day was! The service, which was prepared and organized by Marsha Meyer, was conducted by our young people and the music was provided by the House Band and our church school children. We are so fortunate that we have young people in our congregation who are so eager to be a part of leading worship, and what a great send-off for the church school programming year.
Now, to look ahead.
As some of you may know already, I will be taking sabbatical leave during 2017. If the idea of a “sabbatical leave” sounds strange to some of you, it is a scheduled time of study leave set aside for pastors to study, to learn, and to recharge. Sabbatical leaves are a fairly common thing in churches, and I’ve taken three of them since we instituted the policy back in 1996—a month in 1999, a month in 2006, and two months in 2011 (the leave was expanded when Rev. Boda-Mercer was called in 2006). Leaves can be taken once every five years, but as you can tell, I’ve waited longer between leaves in some cases. Per Consistory approval, I will take the first of my two months of leave from June 5th – July 4th; the second will take place during the month of October.
Every sabbatical leave I’ve taken has had a purpose and a goal—this isn’t time to loaf in a hammock or work on my yard. In 1999, I studied small group ministries; in 2006, I read through a list of a half-dozen or so books that I had wanted to get to but hadn’t gotten around to reading; in 2011, I wrote music for use in worship. This time around I want to work on another musical project: a musical based on the book of Jonah. It’s an ambitious project and I may be in way over my head on this one, but nothing ventured, nothing gained, as they say. In my absence, Dale Miller will cover pastoral emergencies, and between Dale and the Five Practices working group worship services will be handled, as well.
While some pastors may do extensive travel or pursue study opportunities that will take them out of the area, I have no plans to do any of that. My travels will not take me past the Wisconsin state border. I’m comfortable with that, though, because Salem members have been very good in the past about using common sense about what to do with me during my previous sabbaticals and respected certain expectations. Odds are that you might see me around town during my leave. You don’t have to pretend that you don’t see me or be afraid to say “hello”. We just won’t be talking about VBS or how the worship service went on Sunday.
I do ask, though, that you keep me in your prayers during this time as I will keep you in mine.
And yes, last but not least, the church picnic will be held on June 25th. There will be more details about that event in this letter. I won’t be there to share in the fun, but I’ll be thinking about you.
Your servant in Christ,
Rev. Jim Hoppert