“Pastor, do you have a minute?”
I hear that question often. And most of the time I can say sure, come on in, have a seat, what’s on your mind. Sometimes it is a member of the church, and just as often it is not. I don’t usually have to say much to get the conversation going. And then I listen. I pay attention not only to what the person is saying, but how it is being said. I listen to the story and to the emotion behind the story. It is one of the favorite parts of my job, to listen to people’s joys and sorrow, to their questions and their searching. It takes a lot of energy to be present to someone, it means dropping my train of thought as I am thinking about my sermon, or writing my newsletter article, or composing a letter or recommendation, or returning emails, or phone calls, etc.
It is also one of the reasons that I am very glad to have a 2-month sabbatical. I need time to “unplug” emotionally, to rest physically, and to recharge spiritually. Because I want to be truly present to you as I interact with you. I want to be healthy physically, emotionally, mentally, spiritually so that I can listen to what you are saying and actually hear what you are saying.
My main goal for this time away, is to listen. But instead of listening to all of you, I want to take time to just listen to God. God speaks to me through you, of course, but God also uses other ways to communicate. I want to explore those. My hope is that it will make me a better pastor, and better able to help you listen to how God is speaking to you.
Many pastors I know never had a sabbatical. It is truly a precious gift. Thanks to all who have stepped up to help plan it, to staff and others who will put in longer hours because of it, and to our supply preachers who will give up their Sunday mornings to cover for me.
God bless you as you hear different voices lead worship and preach, teach and converse. And God’s peace to you during this time that we are apart for a little while. I look forward to my return, so that I can be truly present among you again.
~Pr. Bob Albing