Fr. Ben's Sabbatical Q & A

Sabbatical 2019

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Greetings everyone, the time is nigh and I will soon leave on my Sabbatical journey to St. Anselmo in Marin County, California. It is on the northern peninsula above San Francisco. I will be staying on the campus of San Francisco Theological Seminary, a Presbyterian seminary, in a house that a professor there has graciously offered to let me stay for the rest of the summer. 

I will arrive on July 2nd and return on September 3rd. My plans involve Icon writing at St. Gregory of Nyssa Episcopal Church in San Francisco for two Sundays a month and to train with the Prosopon School of Iconography for one whole week, also held at St. Gregory of Nyssa. Please visit this site and watch the video. ( It will give you some insight into why St. Gregory is a good place to delve into Icon writing.

 I plan on primarily worshiping at St. Gregory but may visit other Episcopal churches as well. St. Gregory is a unique community. Most all they do is done around or close to the altar including coffee hour.

Frequently Asked Questions     

What is a 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. Sabbatical leave is a time for Fr. Ben to shift gears in order 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, retirement planning, or terminal leave.) Father Ben’s letter of agreement with St. Francis specifies that he may take a sabbatical after six years of service at St. Francis. 2019 will mark Ben’s eighth year with us. Sabbatical is more than a vacation from meetings, budgets, sermons, and people in need. It is a time for Father Ben to receive spiritual nourishment and a change in perspective, to deepen his relationship with God, himself, and his family – a season of spiritual growth. This special time will also be a season of growth for the entire congregation.

Do other clergy go on sabbatical?

Yes. A growing number of congregations are realizing the lasting benefits of providing their clergy with sabbatical leave. Hopefully pastors return refreshed and revitalized and the church often moves into new phases of ministry following a sabbatical leave. Many churches now have regular sabbatical times written into their letter of agreements/job description with their pastors.  Sabbatical time is given in addition to vacation time. Fr. Ben will still have vacation time upon his return.

How long will Father Ben be away?

Father Ben will begin his sabbatical after worship on Sunday, June 30th and return September 3rd, being in the office on September 4th.  There will be a special liturgy of taking sabbatical leave on his last Sunday June 30th and a special liturgy of return on Sunday, September 8th.

What will Fr. Ben be doing during his sabbatical?

Fr. Ben will read about Franciscan Theology, immerse himself in icon writing, reading about Franciscan Theology, resting, having fun, meeting some old friends at the Church Divinity School of the Pacific, and hosting some visitors during his time away.

Who will cover Fr. Ben’s responsibilities while he is away?

St. Francis is blessed to have a wonderful congregation full of faithful individuals with the ability to minister to and with each other in all areas of our common life together. Our Senior Warden, Jeff Hobaugh, who will be the ecclesial authority during Ben’s absence, and Junior Warden, Brittney Kish-Lightsey, and the vestry are capable of handling any situation that requires attention. Our Eucharistic Visitor’s team under the direction of Deacon Pat and the pastoral Care committee chaired by Tammy Pallot will address any pastoral care issues that may arise. The vestry has invited Kim Jackson and John Bolton (from Atlanta); and Shirley Porter, Harriett Simmons, and Gary Abbott (from Macon) to cover the 8 am and 10 am Sunday services. I have also asked the Reverend Bonnie Underwood of All Saints, Warner Robins to cover any pastoral emergencies requiring a priest and to perform any burials that might be scheduled.

Will Fr. Ben be in contact with St. Francis during the sabbatical?

An important part of a sabbatical is to make a complete break from things. In the unlikely event that some extraordinary news must be communicated to Ben, Jeff Hobaugh, the Senior Warden will notify him. Fr. Ben may send pictures from time to time for posting in E-news.

Can I call, text, or send an Email to Fr. Ben if I need him while he is away?

Please do not. The only people who will be in direct contact with Father Ben while he is away will be Arthur and in an emergency, the Senior or Junior Wardens.

What if a question/concern arises or I have a family or personal crisis while Fr. Ben is away?

As always, you can contact the parish office and staff, any vestry member, or the Pastoral Care ministry leaders to answer questions or concerns. They will consult with the Senior and Junior Warden for advice and discernment if a matter of particular concern arises. The church office number is 478-477-4616 and is open Monday through Thursday from 9 am to 1 pm. The church office will be closed Thursday, July 4th, Friday the 5th, and Monday, September 2nd for Labor Day.

Who should I call to plan a special service or to request an addition to the church calendar or have a prayer request?

The church office will continue to be open during the usual summer office hours. Kathryn Kane (Monday and Wednesday) is available to help you arrange dates for special services during the sabbatical. The office volunteers are Isabelle Tanner (Tuesdays, 9am 1 pm) and Tammy Pallot (Thursdays, 9 am to 1pm).

Who is paying for this sabbatical?

Thanks to your generous gifts throughout the years and especially this year, we have been able to budget the cost of having supply priests. St. Francis will continue to pay Fr. Ben’s salary while he is away.

What will be happening at church during the sabbatical?

The sabbatical season is designed to be a time of renewal for Fr. Ben and the church. In keeping with the sabbatical theme, I encourage the congregation to immerse themselves in Franciscan Theology by reading The Journey and the Dream by Murray Bodo, O.F.M.; and by reading or re-reading Richard Rohr’s The Divine Dance and The Universal Christ. They will be on my reading list whilst I am away. I also would like for the Church to have an Icon writing class available to any who would like to participate after I return.

Will Arthur go with Father Ben?

Arthur will take the last week of August to visit and return with Ben to Macon.

How will St. Francis and Father Ben part ways?

On Sunday June 30th, we will have a congregational send-off. Fr. Ben will officiate and preach his last sermon for a while. A liturgy of leaving will conclude the service where Ben and the congregation commit to praying for each other while we are apart, and Fr. Ben will remove his stole as a symbol of leaving the pastoral and sacramental responsibilities into the care of the congregation.

How will we get reacquainted when Ben return?

On Sunday September 8th, Fr. Ben will pick up his stole as a symbol of returning to his pastoral and sacramental duty and will preach. Fr. Ben will celebrate communion as we break bread together around the family table and celebrate coming home.

How can I help make the sabbatical successful for Ben and for the parish?

First, pray. Pray for a significant time of rest and renewal for Ben. Pray for each member of the vestry and church staff that will lead us while Ben is away. Pray for those who will be supplying for us and all the faithful volunteers who will continue the life of the parish. Pray that this season is one of renewal for each member of the congregation and our parish as a whole. Second, participate. Join in the fellowship and worship opportunities that are offered this summer. Volunteer to help support the vestry and staff by volunteering to lead key events. Finally, seek to be present in the moment and enjoy this unique opportunity in the life of our parish.

Sabbatical Schedule:

June 30: Fr. Ben’s last day in the office,

July 2: Ben arrive in St. Anselmo, California

September 4: Father Ben’s first day back in the parish office.

September 8: Re-entry by preaching and presiding