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Rector’s Sabbatical

November 2, 2022

St. Francis-in-the-Fields Episcopal Church
Shirley Warren, Sabbatical Chair

St. Francis-in-the-Fields Episcopal Church has received a grant of $50,000 to enable its minister, The Rev. Kevin Dellaria, to participate in the 2022 National Clergy Renewal Program. St. Francis is one of 168 congregations across the United States selected to participate in this competitive grant program, which is funded by Lilly Endowment Inc. and administered by Christian Theological Seminary in Indianapolis. Established by the Endowment in 2000, the program’s grants allow Christian congregations to support their pastors with the gift of extended time away from their ministerial duties and responsibilities.

Ministers whose congregations are awarded the grants use their time away from the demands of daily ministry to engage in reflection and renewal. The approach respects the “Sabbath time” concept, offering ministers a carefully considered respite that may include travel, study, rest, prayer and immersive arts and cultural experiences.

Through the National Clergy Renewal Program, congregations apply for grants of up to $50,000 to support renewal programs for their pastors. Collaborative in nature and implementation, the program allows congregations to partner with their ministers in developing experiences that address their unique renewal needs and aspirations. Recognizing that ministers’ families are subject to the stress and demands placed on pastoral leaders, the program encourages pastors to involve their families in renewal activities. Congregational needs during the minister’s renewal experience 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. Since the National Clergy Renewal Program’s inception, more than 3,350 congregations have participated in the program, including the 168 congregations receiving grants in 2022.

With the help of his Sabbatical Committee, the Rev. Kevin Dellaria has carefully designed a program with a focus on the theology of labor and creativity. Under the theme “Experiencing God in Work and Culture,” Fr. Kevin’s sabbatical plan includes ample time for rest and reflection, travel, study, and spiritual nourishment in thoughtful and life-giving ways. Part of his sabbatical includes traveling through areas in the upper Midwest of the United States and a three-week family exploration of England and Scotland. Sabbatical plans also include intentional time for deeper study, personal instruction, and practice of the Great Highland Bagpipe (GHB).

The congregation, through survey feedback, has crafted a plan that will provide self-reflection, rest, and renewal while aiding the healing process as we cautiously recover from the past two years of COVID separation. Therefore, we have outlined four activities: 1) A parish renewal weekend at the church including prayers, led by our lay ministry, music, food, fellowship, and fun; 2) Faith dialogues - inviting guest speakers from the local Jewish and Islamic communities to share their spiritual practices and cultures; 3) A congregation project, which mirrors one of Fr. Kevin’s sabbatical activities: Theological Reflection in a non-church setting. How is God reflected in work, industry, nature, music or when we play? And 4) Spiritual renewal through embracing the outdoors, in keeping with our name, St. Francis-in-the-Fields.

“Pastors play an important role in nourishing the spiritual lives of individuals and in guiding the work of the Christian congregations they serve,” said Christopher L. Coble, the Endowment’s vice president for religion. “Through these grants, we seek to honor pastors for their extraordinary service and enable them to engage in a brief period of rest and renewal. We have learned that such experiences invigorate the leadership of pastors and bring new vitality to their congregations as well.”

Dr. Robert Saler, director of the Lilly Endowment Clergy Renewal Programs, noted that the National Clergy Renewal Program integrates key attributes of healthy congregations, including a mutual respect for the renewal needs of both ministers and the congregations they serve. “The program provides an opportunity for congregations to express appreciation for their ministers’ service and leadership,” Saler said. “At a time when leaders are often praised for their pace of innovation and productivity, the National Clergy Renewal Program pays homage to the timeless wisdom embedded in the practice of reflection and renewal.”

Christian Theological Seminary in Indianapolis also directs the Lilly Endowment Clergy Renewal Program for Indiana Congregations through its Center for Pastoral Excellence.

February 11, 2022

Dear St. Francis Family,

It seems hard to believe, but June 30, 2022, will mark the completion of my sixth year as Rector of St. Francis. As I mentioned at the Annual Meeting in January, that upcoming anniversary means it’s time to begin preparing for a period of Sabbatical leave, which is scheduled to take place during the summer of 2023.

A Clergy Sabbatical is meant to be a time of refreshment and renewal; a time to substantially disconnect from the daily requirements of parish ministry and spend time resting and reflecting in ways that promote new energy and generate fresh ideas. It is not a vacation in the traditional sense, but a carefully-crafted time away that typically blends recreation, travel, study, and spiritual nourishment in thoughtful and life-giving ways. In addition to the plans of the Clergy, a Sabbatical is also a time for the congregation to engage in reflection and renewal, often in ways that parallel the work of the Clergy. By working together in the process of planning and conducting the Sabbatical, the time before, during, and after becomes a shared act of ministry, beneficial to all involved.

With this in mind, and in consultation with the Vestry of St. Francis, a Sabbatical Committee has been formed. The purposes of the Committee are to help guide the development of Clergy and Congregational Sabbatical plans, to communicate those plans effectively and transparently with the congregation, to prepare the congregation for the Rector’s time away, and to assist in applying for grants and other financial resources to help fund the Sabbatical for both the Clergy and Congregation.

Although we are over a year away from the beginning of the Sabbatical period, the process of planning and preparing for this period is well underway, and the work is challenging and intense. Nevertheless, to make the most out of the Sabbatical process, we need every member of St. Francis to participate. Included with this letter, you will find a set of “Frequently Asked Sabbatical Questions”. On behalf of the Sabbatical Committee, I ask that you prayerfully read through this document, and note any questions or concerns you may have. Then, if at all possible, plan on attending one of the presentations mentioned at the bottom of those pages.

Thank you, and may the peace of God be with you.

Fr. Kevin Dellaria+

Frequently Asked Sabbatical Questions

What is a Sabbatical/Renewal Leave?
The word “Sabbatical” has its roots in the biblical concept of Sabbath meaning (“to rest” or “to cease”). Sabbatical leave is a time for Kevin to shift gears in order to rest, disengage, study, reflect, and travel in order to return and minister among us refreshed and renewed in body, mind, and spirit. It is a time to receive spiritual nourishment and a change in perspective, to deepen the relationship between God, himself, and his family – a season of spiritual growth. This special time will also be a season of growth for the entire congregation.

Sabbatical is not a time for routine work, mid-career assessment, job search, or retirement planning. It is not a vacation nor is it a time to do things that distract from the purpose of rest and renewal.

What are Kevin’s plans for his Sabbatical?
Kevin is crafting his Sabbatical around the theme: “Experiencing God through Life and Culture”. The focus of the Sabbatical will be to seek, celebrate, and practice the presence and gifts of God in human endeavor, exploring the intersection of Divine inspiration and human labor and creativity. The program is designed to include ample time for rest and reflection, but also involve travel through areas in the upper Midwest of the United States and the United Kingdom. These journeys will include the creation of photographic journals, reflecting on the spiritual realities revealed along the way. In addition to investigating and celebrating God’s gifts of creativity, industry, and culture, the Sabbatical plan also includes intentional time for deeper study, personal instruction, and practice of the Great Highland Bagpipe (GHB), with particular attention to the ancient, prayerful and melodic form of pipe music known as Ceol Mor, or Piobaireachd.

Why is Kevin taking a Sabbatical now?
Kevin’s contract agreement with St. Francis specifies that he will be eligible to take a sabbatical after three years, with two weeks of sabbatical leave accrued per year of service through the sixth year. July 1, 2023, will mark Kevin’s seventh complete year with St. Francis as a pastor. Kevin has served as Rector of St. Francis since July 1, 2016, leading the congregation through times of significant transition throughout those years. Pastors, in general, serve many roles in the church. Depending on the size and nature of the church, they are counselors, weekly public speakers, worship planners, physical plan consultants, Bible and theology teachers, youth faith encouragers, community leaders, and social justice advocates. In addition, they conduct weddings, baptism, and funerals and are often on call 24/7. Those times of transition and growth require a lot of physical, mental, emotional and spiritual energy from the pastor, the congregation, and their families. Kevin’s time at St. Francis has proven to be fruitful for our congregation, but a period of renewal will help refresh him for new spiritual leadership in the future.

How long will Kevin be gone?
Kevin will be gone for a little over 3 months, which is the suggested timeframe. His sabbatical dates are not yet confirmed, but will likely take place from late May to mid-September 2023. Some regular vacation time will be in conjunction with the sabbatical, with other vacation time used at other times during the year.

Who will cover Kevin’s responsibilities during his absence?
Kevin and the Committee are currently working with the Diocese of Pennsylvania to assist us in hiring a Supply Priest who will provide worship services and pastoral care. The Supply Priest will be supported by our talented Deacon, Rector’s Warden, Vestry and other faithful volunteers. As soon as a Supply Priest is hired, the Committee will provide a detailed plan to the congregation.

Who will I call to plan a special service?
The Parish Office will be opened during its usual hours, staffed by our Deacon, and assisted by the Rector’s Warden and other faithful volunteers. They, along with the Supply Priest, will arrange for weddings, funerals, baptisms, and other special services.

Who do I call if I have a family or personal crisis?
For pastoral concerns, members of St. Francis will contact our Deacon, the Rev. Diane Faison, or Jill Quinn, Rector’s Warden. Together they will share responsibility to arrange pastoral care and refer members, as appropriate, to qualified professionals in the wider community. Although our Supply Priest may provide some pastoral care, their available time will likely be limited.

Who will pay for the Sabbatical expenses/activities?
The Sabbatical Committee is assisting Kevin in applying for a renewal grant from the Lilly Endowment Clergy Renewal Program, which is specific for sabbatical renewal of both clergy and the congregation. If received, the grant will cover the expenses for Kevin and his family, as well as some parish activities. In addition to the Lilly Endowment Clergy Renewal Program, we will also apply for a Sabbath Leave Grant from the Diocese of Pennsylvania. We will know by August 2022, if we are successful in getting either grant.

Does Kevin’s salary continue during Sabbatical?
During the Sabbatical, the church will continue to pay Kevin’s full salary, health insurance and all other benefits, per his contract.

Will the church just be in a “holding pattern” while Kevin is away?
Absolutely Not! All our ministries will continue as usual while Kevin is away. It is important to remember that the sabbatical is a two-way process: while Kevin is on his journey of sabbatical rest, renewal, refreshment, and reflection, St. Francis will embark on its own journey as well – embracing the occasion for our own reflection and renewed focus on God’s call to be His Body. 

Can you say more about the congregational renewal activities?
In the Lilly Endowment Clergy Renewal grant application, the congregation will outline our plan to use this time (and the grant funds) to explore our own passions for different ministries and more open conversation. We will plan activities that will help our age-diverse church and discover where our experiences and interests overlap across age groups. The Committee has scheduled the following education sessions and we will solicit ideas from the congregation for renewal activities.

How can I learn more about the sabbatical?
Please feel free to speak directly with Kevin, a member of the Vestry, or a member of the Sabbatical Committee. As a Committee, we will keep the congregation fully updated throughout with regular communications.

Who are the members of the Sabbatical Planning Committee? Jane Brooks, Mike Burke, Don Jenkins, Fr. Kevin, Nancy Needhammer, Joe Perry, Jill Quinn, John Woodcock (Pastoral Consultant) and Shirley Warren (Chair).