Taking Time Away From Pleasant Hope Baptist Church
On Monday, February 25, 2019 at 9:11AM, I emailed the Trustee Ministry of Pleasant Hope indicating that I felt the need to take time away from my role and regular duties at the church. I'm not surprised that I sent this email on a Monday last year. (Mondays can be a tough day for pastors - a recovery day after a physically, spiritually, and emotionally full weekend.)
Nothing was necessarily wrong or out of the ordinary on this particular Monday, however after more than a decade of a very active pastorate I was seeing signs that it was time to step away for rest and renewal.
The idea of a sabbatical - an intentional period of rest and reflection away from daily duties - was not something that I saw at all growing up in church. On the contrary, I've watched pastors go - go - go until they couldn't go anymore. Ministers can sometimes embrace this warped commitment to martyrdom as if the church needs them to die in order to prove the power of this great Faith. We can feel like it's part of our vocation and calling to die for the church. It can be so freeing though when we realize that we don't have to die or burn ourselves out for the congregations we serve. It's healthy for us to remember that even Jesus often withdrew from the crowd to pray and rest.
I'm so grateful for my father's example. In 2017, I assisted my father and pastor, Bishop Heber Brown, II, in applying and securing resources for a sabbatical. He ended up receiving financial support from the Lily Endowment Clergy Renewal Program which helped make it possible for him to be completely away from his pastoral duties for 3 months.
When I started feeling the need for a sabbatical myself, I turned to this same philanthropic foundation. I partnered with many members of Pleasant Hope that assisted with the application process. They were a dynamite group with each person bringing their unique gifts to the task. We submitted the application in time and in October 2020, we were notified that our application was approved! (Here is the official press release.)
I'm excited to be afforded the opportunity to take 3 months off from the daily routine of this ministry and its sister organizations - Orita's Cross Freedom School, Black Church Food Security Network, and Pleasant Hope Community Development Corporation.
I will be away, unavailable, and unreachable from February 1, 2021 - April 30, 2021.
This is not a vacation! I will be resting, reading, and writing my first book related to our shared ministry of gardening, farming, food, and faith.
In a few weeks, more will be shared about the adjustments the church will make in light of my absence. In the meantime, I solicit your prayers. I will also be praying for you. I'll never forget a comment made by a South African Anti-Apartheid activist some years ago at a conference that I attended in Washington, D.C. He said, "sometimes leaders need to know when to get out of the way."
I firmly believe that this time of pastoral sabbatical has the potential to be as fulfilling for this beautiful congregation as it will be for me. As I get out of the way, I will not be surprised when members start stepping up, standing in the gap, and radiating their own unique genius upon and through the canvas of this church.
When this sabbatical is over, on May 1st you are going to see a different pastor, but I will also return to a different church. We all will grow and this church will be better because of it!
Rev. Dr. Heber Brown, III Pastor
Pleasant Hope Baptist Church