My Summer Sabbatical

After nearly twenty years of following a church summer calendar, my 2011 summer looks quite a bit different, thanks to a Clergy Renewal Grant from the Lilly Endowment.

Imagine taking a train ride from Chicago to Spokane with your wife instead of planning for Pentecost Sunday worship; or embarking on a Caribbean cruise with your wife and three daughters, instead of leading Trinity Sunday worship; or traveling on a three-week trip through Texas visiting with mentors who played important roles in your faith formation instead of Vacation Bible School; or three months with no sermon preparation, no hospital calls, no committee meetings, and no articles to write (except for Austin Seminary publications!). That is what my 2011 summer calendar entails.  

My stated goal: To reconnect with my wife, my family, and my faith.

While I travel on my journey, the congregation I serve (First Presbyterian Church) will engage on its own journey of sorts, as they explore different ways of reflecting on their faith journeys (through art, journaling, etc.), mark their significant faith moments, such as the place of their baptism or where they were confirmed on giant maps in the church’s gathering area, and share about those special moments in worship.  

They were so excited to see me off on this journey and begin their activities, they had a “kick-out” celebration to send me on my way.  When I return, we will have several opportunities to share our experiences, including a display of postcards from all the places I have been, a gallery presentation of their art work, and a daily devotional guide based on stories from their faith journeys. Perhaps most importantly, the change in the summer routine for both the congregation and me invites us into a new season of serving Christ together when I return.

Richard Culp (MDiv'93, DMin'01) is the pastor at First Presbyterian Church, Troy, Ohio. He currently also serves as the president of the Austin Seminary Association Board.