It’s hard to believe three months came and went; my first sabbatical as a minister has concluded. On the one hand, it feels like a whole season has passed since I left my office last June and on the other hand, it feels like I have only been gone a few weeks. I wonder: where did that time go? Either way, this “season” has been deeply enriching and renewing in many ways.
Most importantly, these three months gave me a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to reconnect and invest in my family, who are the most important relationships in my life. Both of my children enjoyed themselves as each dominated endless amounts of my time. I took great joy in getting to know them more on a day-to-day basis. Additionally, I cannot express the gratitude I have to our church for the gift of focusing my energy on the single most formative adult relationship of my life: my spouse.
Unexpectedly, Amanda and I drew closer than we have ever been in our marriage. I see the hand of God in the timing of all the factors for such a watershed moment to happen. I praise God for opening new doors of love and forgiveness through which my ministry and relationships will be strengthened.
I also canoed, listened, read, laid under the sun outdoors and worked on my Appleton home as well as our Park Falls family property. All this time allowed me to clear away and sort through vast amounts of meaningful, pivotal ministry experiences we shared together here at The Church of the Open Door.
It caught me off guard, how (even though I practice and enforce life-giving boundaries), emotionally taxing ministry can be. As a highly sensitive person, my interactions with others last long after an event or conversation is over. I continue to pray, think, and mull over their significance. From marriages to break-ups, funerals to sermons, a listening ear in hard times to hospital visits, cross-country travel to wilderness excursions: the variety and depth of my interactions in this community has been enriching and powerful. It struck me just how deeply I need time to let the dust settle and prepare for a new season of ministry without being exhausted, under-nourished, or anxious from a year of intense proximity with a church I find inspiring and hope-filled.
Lastly, I want to say thank you to my colleagues and staff and faithful committee volunteers here at First Congo. I had no concerns being away for an extended period because of the competence and commitment on behalf of so many people. This was a major gift and speaks volumes about the health of our system. For those of who worked hard in my absence: thank you.
For those of you who trusted me to use this time wisely and supported this unique opportunity: thank you.
I pray this summer has brought you into a deep gladness for all that blessings you have received through God’s love. I look forward to this new season of ministry together and all the experiences we will share together!
Grace and Peace, Pastor Nick Hatch