RECTOR’S SABBATICAL: Q&A

 

Our Rector, the Rev. Aaron Zimmerman will be on sabbatical from May 17 to September 14, 2021. The Sabbatical Planning Committee has prepared the following to answer common questions about the sabbatical.

What is a sabbatical?

The Episcopal Church observes the custom and practice of a sabbatical for clergy for rest and renewal. This important tradition involves an extended time away, usually three to four months, for clergy and their family, available to them after serving at least six years in a parish. Sabbaticals provide a time of renewal not only for clergy, but also for the whole parish. These sabbaticals (from the word “sabbath”) draw their inspiration from God’s own rest on the seventh day of creation, the weekly day of rest observed by Israel, and on Jesus’ practice in his earthly ministry to withdraw from the crowds for rest and prayer.

Do other clergy go on sabbatical?

According to the Episcopal Diocese of Texas, “Sabbatical leave, during which the clergy person receives his/her full salary, is considered so vital to clergy wellness that the Diocese of Texas requires that Letters of Agreement between clergy and their congregations or institutions include provision for sabbaticals.”

Have St. Alban’s clergy taken a sabbatical in the past?

As far as we can tell, no rector of St. Alban's has ever taken a full sabbatical. This is due to a variety of factors: tenures shorter than six years, differing models of ministry, and previous sabbatical policies.

How long will Aaron be gone?

Aaron, with the full support of the Vestry, will be taking a sabbatical this summer from May 17 to September 14, 2021.

What will Aaron be doing on his sabbatical?

During this time away, Aaron will begin with a personal silent retreat. He and his family will then visit his parents and extended family in North and South Carolina. The bulk of the sabbatical, however, will involve a two-month trip to Europe with Andrea and their children. They plan to visit France, Italy, Switzerland, England, Scotland, Sweden, and Iceland. Upon returning, Aaron will do some focused study on the use of livestreaming for worship in different congregations.

Did I hear that Aaron is climbing the Alps?

Aaron is an avid trail runner. During the trip, in July, he will go on a guided trail run called the Tour Du Mont Blanc. The route goes around Mont Blanc, the highest peak in Europe. Beginning in Chamonix, France, Aaron will cover 100 miles through France, Italy, and Switzerland. The trip is organized and guided by a group called Run The Alps (runthealps.com).

Who is paying for the sabbatical?

Our parish applied for and received a $50,000 grant from the Clergy Renewal Program of the Lilly Endowment, Inc., to cover the expenses of Aaron’s sabbatical. This annual national program provides funds for sabbaticals for clergy of all denominations. It is highly competitive. The church also received a $7,500 grant from the Diocese of Texas.

Will the pandemic limit Aaron’s and his family’s ability to travel?

Candidly, we don’t know. At the time of this writing, much of Western Europe is closed to tourism. Yet even now, Europe is discussing a “Vaccine Passport” to allow summer travel for those who have been vaccinated or have proof of a negative COVID test. The regulations are a work in progress. Aaron hopes to continue his trip as planned and will be closely watching European travel restrictions. If they are not able to take their trip exactly as planned, the Zimmermans have developed several contingency plans.

Who will cover Aaron’s responsibilities during his absence?

Our Associate Rector, the Rev. Neal McGowan, will remain to lead us, with the love and support of all our clergy and staff in our own period of renewal. Additionally, the Senior Warden and Vestry, with the staff, will take on additional roles in coordination with Neal for administration of the parish. During Aaron’s leave, the parish will be in the midst of the renovation of our beloved worship space and the installation of the new organ. The Renew & Restore Building Committee, under chair Florence Scattergood, will be working closely with Neal and the Vestry to ensure this project is completed successfully.

Who will I call to plan a special service or visitation?

St. Alban's strives to care for all our members through the ups and downs of life. We have a committed team of lay people, along with the clergy, who visit our members in the hospital, bring meals after births, provide food for bereaved families, and bring Communion to our members who are unable to attend church. Our clergy are also happy to offer pastoral counseling. Please call or email the church office to speak to one of our clergy for any pastoral needs. Please note that when you are hospitalized, regulations prevent the hospitals from notifying us. You or your family must contact us to let us know. Please know that our clergy are always happy to pray with you before surgeries and to visit you in the hospital.

AFTER-HOURS: As always, if you are in need of pastoral care after office hours (M-F after 4:30 PM or on weekends), please call (254) 730-1125 for the clergy person on call.

Who will conduct worship?

The Rev. Neal McGowan will conduct worship alongside our very talented staff including Eugene Lavery, our music director; the Rev. Kara Leslie, Pastoral Associate; and the Rev. Alberto Melis. Deacon. Dr. Rachel Toombs, Director of Christian Formation; and Stephanie Drum, Director of Ministry to Children, Youth & Families, will continue to provide formation for adults and children.

Will the church be in a holding pattern while Aaron is away?

No! During Aaron’s leave, the parish will be in the midst of the renovation of our beloved church and the installation of the new organ. The Building Committee, guided by chair Florence Scattergood, will be working closely with Neal and the Vestry, to ensure this project is completed successfully. St. Alban’s has continued to grow during the pandemic. We had a record number of people get confirmed December of 2020. We anticipate continued growth as we head into summer and fall. We have a full range of our cherished parish events that will take place this summer: VBC, St. Alban’s Day, concerts & picnics, and the return to indoor worship and Christian Formation. We look forward to welcoming Aaron and his family back to a continually growing and healthy parish.

Will Aaron be in touch with St. Alban’s during his sabbatical?

No. For Aaron to truly rest, it is important that he truly feel “away.” Aaron will be off email and social media during his leave. But he loves this parish and has said that once he returns, he will want to find out what happened while he was gone. We have invited members of the parish to take pictures of events—big and small—in the life of the parish to share with Aaron when he returns. Andrea Zimmerman will share some photos and updates of their travels, and we plan to share some of these notes in the Sunday bulletin. We will pray weekly for the Zimmermans in worship.

Will the whole Zimmerman family go with him?

Aaron, Andrea, Abigail, Athan and August will all enjoy this time together. There will be opportunities for them to visit special sites, hang out, hike, hang out, spoil themselves, hang out, and did I say hang out? This should be a wonderful time for the family to spend an extended time away from phones, meetings, and school.

How will we get “reacquainted” when Aaron returns?

When Aaron and the Zimmerman family return (and yes, they will return and Aaron will be here to lead us forward), we will celebrate! We’ll gather as a parish to welcome them home and hear all their stories and we will share ours.

What if I have other questions not answered here?

There may be other questions you have that we have not covered here. We invite you to contact the church office Monday-Friday 8:30 AM to 4:30 PM
(254) 752-1773 or email at stalbans@stalbanswaco.org.