Preparation for a Long-Term Pastorate

On Sunday April 24, 2016 Rev. Chad Rodgers and his wife Kim Rodgers were not worshiping at Lower Valley Presbyterian Church as they have for most Sundays over the past 8 years.  Instead they were running 26.2 miles along the Central Coast of California where the Santa Lucia Mountains rise from the Pacific Ocean– in the Big Sur Marathon.  This was the kick-off to Pastor Chad’s 2016 sabbatical.

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The guiding theme for this sabbatical came from Hebrews 12:1-2, “Let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith.” The following excerpt from the proposal which Rev. Rodgers and members of his church put together to give shape to the Sabbatical sets the tone for all of the activity of LVPC and Chad during the sabbatical.  “Long runs, long marriages, long road trips, long silences, and long pastorates all require the common thread of perseverance and faith. In each case there are surprises, unexpected challenges, breakdowns, and blessings. My imagination has long been captivated by Eugene Peterson’s notion that, “the norm for pastoral work is stability. Twenty-, thirty-, and forty-year-long pastorates should be typical among us (as they once were) and not exceptional…” (Under The Unpredictable Plant, Eugene Peterson, p. 29).

Lower Valley Presbyterian Church received a grant of $49,721 to enable its minister to participate in the 2015 National Clergy Renewal Program. LVPC was one of 144 congregations selected for this competitive grant program, which is funded by Lilly Endowment, Inc and administered by Christian Theological Seminary in Indianapolis. The approach respects the “Sabbath time” concept, offering ministers a carefully considered respite that may include travel, study, rest, immersive arts and cultural experiences, and prayer. Recognizing that families are subject to the stress placed on pastoral leaders, the program encourages families to participate in renewal activities. Congregational needs also are considered. Up to $15,000 of the grant may be used to support interim pastoral leadership during the pastor’s retreat, as well as renewal activities within the congregation.

Chad’s sabbatical time, designed along the themes stated above, includes many different activities. After the challenge of running the Big Sur Marathon, the Rodgers will have intentional visits with long-time mentors who have shaped their call. After many years of interest in Ignatian spirituality, Chad will participate in an 8-day directed silent retreat at a Jesuit retreat center in Colorado. This will be followed up with ongoing spiritual direction. Finally, in June the entire Rodgers family will head out for Alaska. The journey will cover some 8,000 miles of driving, exploring culture and history, and wondering at God’s creation along the way.

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“Lilly Endowment intends for this program to enable pastors to live for a while at a different pace and in a new environment, in Sabbath time and space,” said Dr. Christopher L. Coble, vice president for religion at the Endowment. If this is the intention of the Sabbatical, then Pastor Rodgers is off to a great pace – he finished the race in 3hrs, 43 minutes and 13 seconds. You can follow Pastor Chad’s experiences on his blog Sabbatical Time https://preachingtogether.wordpress.com/. You can discover what LVPC is up to during the sabbatical time by going to their Facebook page!

~Stefanie Muntzel, Presbytery Resourcing Coordinator & Member of the PCT Communications Team