Clergy Renewal for Fr Tommy: Summer 2021
What is a Clergy Renewal (sabbatical)?
The word sabbatical has its roots in the biblical concept of Sabbath (“to rest” or “to cease”). Sabbath keeping is setting aside time that God consecrates and makes holy.
Clergy Renewal leave is a time for our rector to shift gears to rest, disengage, study, reflect and travel in order to return to minister among us refreshed and renewed in body, mind and spirit. (It is not a time for routine work.)
Fr Tommy’s letter of agreement with St. Margaret's specifies that he will take a sabbatical after four years of service at St. Margaret's which was last year. Since Fr Tommy became Priest-in-Charge of Church of the Nativity in 2020, this renewal time was included in his Letter of Agreement with the congregation. The year 2021 will be ten years since his last sabbatical.
Clergy Renewal is more than a vacation from meetings, budgets, sermons and people in need. It is a time for Fr Tommy to receive spiritual nourishment and a change in perspective, to deepen his relationship with God, himself, and his family – a season of spiritual growth.
Do other clergy go on Clergy Renewal?
Yes, the church strongly encourages congregations to provide pastors with regular sabbatical leaves.
How long will Fr Tommy be gone?
Fr Tommy's last Saturday will be May 22rd, the Vigil for the Feast of Pentecost. He will return to the parish on September 8th. Fr Tommy will be away for approximately three months.
What will Fr Tommy be doing on his Clergy Renewal?
As part of Fr Tommy's Clergy Renewal he will travel to Mexico, the San Francisco Bay Area, and Greece for relaxation, study, and prayer. He will visit the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City, and the magnificent ruins of the civilization of Teotihuacan in June. In July he will visit the San Francisco Bay Area (where he lived for nine years) including sights like, Grace Cathedral. In August, he will enjoy the sites in and around Athens, Greece. His travels will finish at the Wild Goose Festival in North Carolina Labor Day Weekend. During his travels, he will be joined by clergy colleagues, friends and family, and will pursue spiritual direction, Spanish enrichment, and discernment.
Who will cover Fr Tommy’s responsibilities during his absence?
The Very Rev. Ron Clingenpeel has agreed to provide pastoral oversight during Fr Tommy's Clergy Renewal. Fr Ron's time will include Saturday services every week in June, July and August. He will also be providing pastoral oversight at St. Margaret’s this summer. Fr Ron and his band will be leading music for our Rectory Front Porch Folksong Concert on May 22.
Who is the Very Rev. Ron Clingenpeel?
A native Nebraskan, Dean Clingenpeel has lived in Louisiana most of his life.After serving churches and campus ministries in Nebraska, Montana and Kansas, Clingenpeel came to New Orleans in 1987 to be the chaplain at the Chapel of the Holy Spirit, which serves Tulane and Loyola universities.In 1998, Bishop Charles Jenkins called him to be Canon to the Ordinary, (the assistant to the bishop).In 2002, he was called to be Dean of Christ Church Cathedral, St. Louis, Mo. He retired from that position in 2009.
Clingenpeel spent 20 years in ministry to campuses.In 1996, Bishop Brown asked him to take on some other part-time duties helping with the deployment of clergy in the diocese.Since 1998, he as been a consultant for the election of bishops in the Episcopal Church.In retirement he has served as an interim rector, interim camp and conference center director and transitions consultant.
A musician, his band, Father Ron and Friends, have produced two albums in the American folk tradition. He continues to write music, play in the band, and support other musicians.He can sometimes be heard as a DJ on WWOZ radio in New Orleans.He also works for WWOZ at the annual New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival.
Mostly he just enjoys people, hanging about, and playing music.
Whom do I call if I have a family or personal crisis?
For pastoral concerns, contact Fr Ron Clingenpeel (314-249-5908) or our Senior Warden Stacy Krebs (225-335-0542).
Who will pay for the Clergy Renewal?
Expenses for the sabbatical and Fr Ron’s coverage will be covered by a grant from the Lily Endowment clergy renewal program. St. Margaret's was one of 150 congregations across the United States, and the only one congregation in Louisiana, selected to participate in this competitive grant program, that has been fully funded by Lilly Endowment Inc.
Who will administer the parish in Fr Tommy’s absence?
Our Senior Warden, Stacy Krebs, aided by vestry members, will facilitate communications and oversee the use of the parish facilities.
What if a question/concern arises while Tommy is gone?
The Wardens, Fr Ron Clingenpeel , and Vestry will serve as a “clearinghouse” for questions and concerns. Ultimately, the vestry will exercise the authority to resolve all issues concerning parish life.
Will the church just be in a “holding pattern” while Tommy is away?
All of our ministries will continue to flourish while Fr Tommy is away, and perhaps new ones will be formed. Also, it is important to remember that the sabbatical is a two-way process: while Fr Tommy is on his journey of renewal, refreshment and reflection, we will embark on a journey as well – to continue reflection on our prior work, to renew ourselves and to discern God’s will for us.
Will Tommy be in contact with the Church of the Nativity?
An important part of a Clergy Renewal is to make a complete break from things. The only people who will be in direct contact with Fr Tommy while he is away will be his family. Fr Tommy will post reflections of his experiences of the Holy on Facebook while on sabbatical and you may choose to follow his journey during his time away. https://www.facebook.com/GumboPriest/
What is a Ministry Sabbatical?
A ministry sabbatical is a time, usually, three months, when ministry leaders and congregations set aside the leader's normal responsibilities for the purpose of rest and renewal toward sustained excellence in ministry. A ministry sabbatical is not an extended vacation, nor is it an academic sabbatical that usually involves extensive study. It is a release from the routine of the call for the physical, emotional, spiritual, and intellectual well-being of the ministry leader.
A Biblical Perspective on Sabbaticals
The word sabbatical is drawn from Sabbath. The Hebrew word for Sabbath means to "close or rest" and is connected with the last day of Creation when God rested. (Genesis 2:3) God both models and commands Sabbath rest for his people. "Remember the Sabbath to keep it holy." (Exodus 20:8-11) Jesus affirmed the importance of rest, saying, "The Sabbath was made for humankind, not humankind for the Sabbath. So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath." (Mark 2:27-28) The biblical example of Jesus' own frequent withdrawal to a quiet place to meditate, pray, and be renewed is a model. In His ministry, the constant demands of people led Jesus to step away regularly. See also: Genesis 1 and 2; Exodus 20:8-11; 23:10-12; Leviticus 25:1-7 (Sabbatical Year); 24:8-25 (Year of Jubilee); Psalm 23; and Ecclesiastes 3:1-8.
Why is a Sabbatical Important?
Roy M. Oswald, a senior consultant with the Alban Institute, suggests that the rapid change and complexity of congregational life and ministry raises the need for three months of sabbatical rest and renewal every four to seven years. He believes that 20% to 30% of ministry leaders he speaks to are in a state of severe burnout. Another 20% of the same audience is on the way to severe burnout. In 2021 it will have been ten years since Fr Tommy's last sabbatical and his 21st year in ministry.
Richard Bullock and Bruesehoff in Clergy Renewal: The Alban Guide to Sabbatical Planning suggests the following motivations for considering a ministry sabbatical:
- Continual spiritual growth facilitated by periods of rest and renewal is vital toward being an effective minister.
- Pastoral responsibilities are not contained within normal office hours and regularly involve weekends.
- Rapid changes in parish ministry can increase the likelihood of burnout without periods of rest and renewal.
- Burnout makes ministry and the minister dull, hollow, and uninteresting.
- Clergy renewal also provides the opportunity for congregations to examine their dependency on the ministry leader and to consider expanding the roles of lay leaders.
Character & Purpose of Fr Tommy’s Renewal Program
Sacred Journeying with Mary
“The end of all of our exploring will be to arrive where we started and to know the place for the first time.” -T.S. Eliot
Life is a sacred and awe-inspiring journey. Connections between the sacred, secular, and natural worlds exist everywhere, if we have the eyes to see. Even if we never leave the same city, we are never in the same place—we are always changing/evolving. It is important to see even familiar places and faces with new eyes.
However, as the poet David Whyte put it, “When your eyes are tired, the world is tired also.”
Fr Tommy will journey to places that have been important and even sacred in his life, to see them with new eyes, and to find moments of stillness, rest, and centering.
On this journey, Mary will serve as a symbol, guide, and inspiration, in her role as the one who carried the Christ within her on a sacred journey that led to the renewal of the world.