On My Way to a Prayerful Sabbatical
May 17, 2018
On My Way to a Prayerful Sabbatical
In early January of this year, our Synod’s Executive Committee approved my request for sabbatical leave in keeping with our synodical employment agreements. For that I am thankful to our elected leaders and to God! I have spent these intervening months preparing for this sabbatical. Now I am embarking on this adventure, which over the course of the next two months will take me to two different Benedictine monasteries, one Episcopal here in New York state, and a Lutheran one in Michigan.
Ever since my college days, I have been drawn to monastic spirituality. Each monastic retreat I have taken has given me the gift of a sense of holistic balance in life, even if only for those few days. Now I will have occasion to know what it feels like to be immersed in the Benedictine routine for a more extended period, that is, for three weeks at a time in two different monastic settings.
My hope for this time away is to better learn how to incorporate that sense of holistic balance into my busy, non-cloistered life in ministry – “Physician, heal thyself,” for promoting such wellness is part of what I am called to do as Assistant to the Bishop for Faith and Leadership Formation! Through my sabbatical experience, I pray that I will be in a better position to lead and mentor those in my care in our Synod.
More concretely, I want to come away from this experience with a “deliverable” in keeping with the current Leadership Development emphases of our synodical Strategic Plan. Namely, I want to create a course and continuing education event which is built around a weeklong monastic retreat for our leaders in the context of which they will explore how to translate themes of monastic spirituality into their own lives and ministry routines.
How might we nurture greater simplicity and quiet in our complex and noisy world? How can we make the most of solitude in our lives, so that it’s not just loneliness and isolation that we experience? How can we deepen Christian community, grounded in prayerful engagement with the means of grace? How can we be more disciplined in our spirituality, incorporating daily prayer into our lives, so that our corporate prayer is not just a Sunday thing? How can we honor in our lives the natural rhythms of each day, more fully integrated with the blessings God’s good, but fragile creation? How can we spend more time just being, rather than acting as slaves to our “to do” lists? How can our spiritual lives take the lead to serve our work life, and not the other way around, when too often administrative demands become the “tail that wags the dog” of our lives in the church?
Responding creatively to such questions will be the focus of the resource I will develop in the context of my monastic sabbatical.
Monastic spirituality is quite counter cultural. So many of the themes of such spirituality are antithetical to the preoccupations of our current culture. I love the quip of Sister Joan Chittister, a social activist Benedictine nun, who said that “the Rule of St. Benedict saved civilization in the 6th Century, and it can do it again in our day!” I believe the wisdom of her assertion with my whole heart, for our church and world desperately need the gifts and practical wisdom of monastic spirituality.
I also think that what I will doing on this sabbatical is in keeping with the charisms of our church’s founder, Martin Luther, who was first an Augustinian Friar before his career as a Reformer. I believe that he did not completely reject monasticism. Rather, Luther wanted to make the riches of the spirituality that he knew in the monastery available to all of God’s people in their ordinary lives. Luther wanted the gifts of a deep prayer life to be available to everyone, and not just to the religious professionals, that is, monks and nuns.
So it is that I begin this spiritual adventure. Please know that I will daily undertake one of the most important ministries of the church, and that is intercessory prayer. Every day I will pray for you, the leaders and other people of our Synod. I will daily include in my prayer the persons, circumstances, and settings about which I know, and which weigh heavily on my heart and yours. I will pray for our Bishop and our whole Synod during this time of transition, discernment, and healing.
I will be back in the office and at my routine on July 16. I invite you to pray for me, that I may return to my calling refreshed and renewed by the many gifts of Benedictine spirituality, that I may do my part in making those gifts available to you as well.
Appreciatively in Christ,
The Rev. Jonathan Linman, Ph.D.
Assistant to the Bishop for Faith and Leadership Formation