parkdale united church

429 Parkdale Avenue, OTTAWA, Ontario K1Y 1H3

May 2017


Experiencing Sabbath


God rested from all God’s work” Genesis 2:2.


Jesus says: "Come to me and I will give you rest and you will find rest for your souls" Matt 11:28-30.


‘Sabbathing’ and ‘resting’ are strong imperatives in the Bible. In Genesis, God rests and commands that rest be observed. It is for our well-being, particularly our relationship with God, others, the earth and ourselves. Jesus promises the kind of rest that restores the soul and grounds us in what is really real. This verse came home to me in a particularly profound way when we (the Parkdale United and Runnymede United tour group that visited Israel and Jordan this past March) visited the Garden of Gethsemane, at the base of the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem. Jesus regularly retreated to this garden to pray and discern God’s will.

I am thirsty for a prolonged opportunity for rest, discernment and the restoring of my soul. Ministry undertakings have been fruitful, rewarding and full over the past years here at Parkdale United. My last sabbatical in 2007 afforded me an opportunity to visit, study and live in community with urban intentional Christian communities around North America. It was extremely rewarding, inspiring, energizing and faith-expanding.

This time, I have discerned a need for pilgrimage and solitary prayer and spiritual renewal. The phrase that comes to mind from Psalm 23 is “…He restoreth my soul!” I was reading one of my favourite authors Eugene Petersen, and he writes this about sabbaticals:

If we are going to take sabbaticals, let them be real sabbaticals: a willed passivity in order to be restored to alert receptivity to spirit-prayer, silence, solitude, worship…The original intent of sabbath is a time to be silent and listen to God, not attend lectures; a time to be in solitude and be with God, not “interact” with fatigued peers. If help is to be given to the pastor in midcourse, it is not going to come by infusion of intellect but by renewal of spirit.”


I am seeking a renewal of spirit.


The United Church of Canada has established a Sabbatical Policy with this rationale:

“As the gospel story illustrates, Jesus experienced sabbatical when he sought occasional respite from the demands of his ministry (i.e. Matthew 14:23 et al).  On mountaintops and by lakesides, Jesus took time apart to commune with God, to gain perspective, and to strengthen himself spiritually.   In much the same way as Jesus benefited from such times of re-creation, Ministry Personnel in pastoral relationships, and the congregations they serve, can too. For the minister, rejuvenation of spirit and clarity of purpose may be the outcome, while for the congregation sabbatical may occasion an increase in the level, and expression, of lay leadership.”


For my sabbatical, I will be away for the months of May, June and July, then I will add an additional two weeks of vacation, thereby returning to work on August 15.


The anchor piece to my planned sabbatical is the near 800 km. Camino de Santiago pilgrimage walk from St. Jean-Pied-du-Port near Biarritz in France to Santiago de Compostelo in Spain. (an additional 60 km if I go on to Finisterre).

One resource states the origin of this particular pilgrimage route in this way:

The history of the Camino de Santiago goes back to the beginning of the 9th century (year 814) moment of the discovery of the tomb of the evangelical apostle of the Iberian Peninsula. Since this discovery, Santiago de Compostela becomes a peregrination point of the entire European continent.

The Way was defined then by the net of Roman routes that joined the neuralgic points of the Peninsula. The impressive human flow that from very soon went towards Galicia made quickly appear lots of hospitals, churches, monasteries, abbeys and towns around the route. During the 14th century the pilgrimage began to decay, fact brought by the wars, the epidemics and the natural catastrophes.

The recovery of the route begins at the end of the 19th century, but it is during the last quarter of the 20th century when the authentic contemporary resurge of the peregrination takes place. There is no doubt that the social, tourist, cultural or sport components have had a great importance in the “jacobea” revitalization but we cannot forget that the route has gained its prestige thanks to its spiritual value.”

I will be departing for France sometime around the middle of May and plan to be gone for about five weeks. I intend to keep a journal and will spend intentional time in prayer, reflection and discernment. I am so desirous of this anticipated time of spiritual refreshment. A spiritually refreshed, grounded and rejuvenated Anthony will be an asset to Parkdale United in terms of leadership, creativity, teaching and pastoral caring. I am trusting the Spirit’s empowerment.


As well, in addition to physically recovering from this pilgrimage walk (I am told that one must build in some time to allow one’s body to physically recover from such an arduous walk; “O Lord help these blisters heal and these creaky old bones recover…lol”), I also intend to read for pleasure and for the stoking of my creative imagination. I will resist digesting heavy academic and theological books in favour of novels and fiction and humourous literature. I may also investigate some short-term art instruction. And then there is reconnecting with family members and friends; both those near and far. This will include trying to develop a healthier schedule I have worked for keeping in touch and organizing social gatherings.

with the Ministry & Personnel and Worship Committees, as well as with my colleagues Barbara Faught and Melodee Lovering to ensure that there will be adequate preaching and pastoral coverage while I am away.


A full preaching roster for my time away has already been established. As well, neighbouring United Church clergy will be on standby, if needed, for pastoral emergencies. By God’s grace, all will be in good hands.


I ask that you would pray for me and my family as I undertake this sabbatical experience. I will be praying for you all as well. I am confident that by the grace of God, we will all continue to experience the blessing of