The Bishop of Tonbridge and the Diocese of Rochester have recently confirmed that our Vicar, Rev David Green, will be taking a Sabbatical between the 31st of January and the 1st of May in 2022.
A Sabbatical (or “Extended Ministerial Development Leave” to give its proper title) is a period of study leave defined as three calendar months away from the parish, in addition to the Vicar’s usual annual holiday allocation. It is expected that the sabbatical includes either the Christmas or Easter period so that the Vicar is away for one of the major festivals in the Christian year.
This sustained period away from normal duties promotes professional development and personal enrichment and will normally consist of three elements – some element of learning through study and theological reflection, a retreat to set aside time to renew the Vicar’s faith and relationship with God, and then also rest. For those Vicars who have family like David, as part of their rest a family holiday is recommended.
Having been ordained ten years, David was technically due for his EMDL in 2019 and was making early plans to take the sabbatical in 2020 when the Coronavirus Pandemic hit. Having now marked ten years service in our parishes and thirteen years overall as an ordained minister, and after a very busy and unusual period of ministry during the Pandemic, and with a new Curate due to join David in the Summer of 2022, the Bishop, Churchwardens, our Parochial Church Councils and David have all agreed that this is now the right time for the Sabbatical to take place.
Will we be able to contact Rev David during the Sabbatical?
The short answer is no. You will not be able to phone him or email him or call upon him for pastoral care or ministerial duties during those three months. It is also not acceptable to contact his wife Kerry and ask her to relay messages to David.
He will not be taking services of any kind, undertaking pastoral care, leading meetings, doing school assemblies, attending school governor or charitable trustee meetings or conducting any work connected to his role as the Vicar of our parishes.
While he will be travelling for some of the time, it’s entirely possible that you may see him around West Malling or Offham. Please don’t feel you have to ignore him, but please don’t talk to him about church business. He is taking a break.
How will the churches be operating while Rev David is away?
Plans have been put in place to keep things running as normally as possible. Some of our local retired Ministers, our Lay Ministers and other occasional preachers will be supplemented by guest Clergy from the Diocese of Rochester to cover our Sunday services, including Holy Week and Easter.
In Offham, the 9.15 a.m. Sunday service will take place each week as normal. In West Malling, the 10 o’clock service will take place each week and the Wednesday 9.30 a.m. service will also take place weekly. The 8 o’clock service will unfortunately only be able to take place on the first Sunday of each month.
Our administrator, Amy Southby, will continue to provide a contact point for christenings, weddings and funerals and will help to run the administrative side of parish life in David’s absence. The Vicarage phone line will re-direct to Amy. David’s email will also be checked regularly (but not by him).
There are some things we are still trying to work out. For example, how we run the Online Worship is an open question and you’ll see elsewhere on our website that we are looking for people to help.
Who’s in charge?
The Churchwardens are in charge of the parishes during David’s absence with support from our Area Dean, the Rev Wil North, for certain legal tasks like approving headstones or the reading of Banns for Marriage.
What will David be doing?
David is currently putting the final touches to his plan but he will be taking a Retreat week, he’s organising a week’s holiday in Cornwall with his wife and children, and for his studies he plans to travel and do some research into the last 18 months of the Pandemic and the experience of Online Worship. Through visiting other churches and speaking with their Clergy, he hopes to reflect on what’s been good, what’s been lost, what might stick long-term and how the church has grown. He will also be thinking theologically about questions of absolution, benediction and consecration over the Internet.
What is the church’s role during the Sabbatical?
- Pray for David and his family.
- Respect his time away from the parishes by not disturbing him.
- Support the Churchwardens and our other Ministers by getting involved in the life of the church. Offer to help with some of the tasks that David often does.
- And in case you are wondering, If you run into the family at the supermarket, yes you are allowed to talk to them.