To help the clergy rest after the stresses and strains of the COVID-19 pandemic, the diocese has established the Mini Sabbatical Program.
Bishop Andrew Asbil announced the program in a letter to the diocese in June. “Rest is one of the first things we sacrifice when crisis strikes,” he wrote. “We become so caught up in dealing with the emergency that we put our own needs on hold and focus on the needs of the moment, of others. Never was this more in evidence than amongst our clergy over the past 27 months.”
He thanked the clergy for their “super-human efforts” during the pandemic. “I have said it before and I will say it again: to my beloved priests and deacons, thank you. Thank you for your sacrificial care of your church families, gathering the faithful in prayer and creating community in whatever ways and means you could – even learning new skills to do so. Thank you for sustaining this Church through the darkest of days and the deepest of challenges. You have been simply wonderful, and we as a Diocese would not be where we are today without your faithfulness. But while your efforts have been tireless, I do know that you are tired. Deeply tired. You deserve and need a rest.”
In the Mini Sabbatical Program, every cleric (priest or deacon) who served in an appointment for a minimum of one year during the pandemic, and is currently in an appointment in the diocese, is entitled to one 10-day mini sabbatical, including one Sunday, with pay, for rest and restoration. This policy lasts from July 1, 2022 to and Aug. 31, 2023.
“We’re trying to make this policy as generous, as flexible and as simple as possible,” wrote Bishop Asbil. “We hope that parishes will receive it and enable it in that same spirit of generosity and gratitude. We hope that clergy will take advantage of this opportunity without feelings of guilt and responsibility for the days, including the Sunday, that they will be off.”
The 10 days may be taken consecutively or divided up. They may stand alone or be added to other holiday time or a study week. The Sunday must be taken when the liturgical colour is green – in “ordinary time.” Clergy will continue to receive remuneration and benefits from their paying source at their usual rate, uninterrupted. Parishes will be billed as usual.
On the Sunday that the cleric is away, congregations can worship in a number of different ways. Deacons or lay leaders may officiate at Morning Prayer; a simple rite has been created for this situation. Worshippers can tune in to the live stream from St. James Cathedral or watch a video sermon by Bishop Asbil on the subject of sabbath rest.
“Now that I have started attending parishes in person again, I’ve heard from every congregation that I’ve visited the words of appreciation for their clergy who have shepherded church families through the last two years,” wrote Bishop Asbil. “It is time to honour that hard work and dedication with thanksgiving to God.”
For more information on the Mini Sabbatical Program, visit the Clergy Leaves page of the diocese’s website, www.toronto.anglican.ca.