by Hunter Hess
The Elders, staff and I have been discerning together a healthy Sabbatical plan for both me and the congregation. On the heels of a few challenging years of ministry, I am looking forward to disconnecting from the role of pastor to rest and deepen my relationship with God. It is my hope to prepare myself for the next years of ministry by taking the time to focus on my spiritual and family life. The timing is right for a spiritual recharge. Sabbaticals are not only healthy for the pastor on leave, but they create greater opportunity for church members and staff to grow skills and leadership abilities. It is a reminder that the body of Christ is many people. During my sabbatical, which is the months of September, October, and November, I will be taking some trips with my kids to visit museums, reading books, working around the farm, and refocusing on my prayer life and the Holy Spirit’s presence within. It is important that I thank Neffsville and the church leadership for this amazing opportunity. It is not lost on me that there are many people out there who need a break. It is a gift and a blessing. From the bottom of my heart – thank you!
How will Hunter’s tasks be handled while he is gone?
There are three main tasks involved in being the lead pastor of Neffsville Mennonite Church. Those tasks are preaching/teaching, pastoral care and leading the staff. The task of preaching will be handled by a multitude of wonderful options. The theme for the three-month period is the Psalms. The psalms are filled with worship, lament, celebration, and frustration – the things of life. Each preacher has been asked to focus on a psalm of their choice. We will hear from Neffsville church members, Becky Hess, Roger North, Jordan Weidler, Kathy Miller, Bob Justice, and new Associate Pastor of Youth - Ezster Bjorkman! Guest preachers will include John Denlinger, Nelson Okanya, Tim Bentch, Bob Petersheim, Ken Burkholder, and Joanne Dietzel. What a blessing! Director of Worship, Rashard Allen, will be the contact person for the preachers.
Pastoral care will be led by Alan Miller. Alan will be the lead person for crisis care, hospital visitation, and funerals (Praying for no funerals). Eszter Bjorkman will help to fill in visitation when available and needed. The Care Team – led by Kathy and Alan Miller, Ruth Jantzi, Jewel Leamen, Rose King Saylor and Arlene Snavely – will provide visits for those who are unable to attend church. This is a good time to remember that the best pastoral care provider in any situation might be you! I am always amazed by the care that Neffsville offers to one another – personal notes, prayers, text messages, and visits are a powerful part of the congregation’s pastoral and healing ministry. To do this well we need everyone.
Who will lead the staff and tend to their questions and ideas over the three-month sabbatical? Alan Miller will lead staff meetings. Each staff member has an Elder liaison. This Elder Liaison is the bridge between the staff member and the elders. When I am not on sabbatical the Elder Liaison checks in with their staff member several times a year. During the Sabbatical, we are asking them to check in twice a month. If questions or challenges arise, the staff will not be alone in making decisions. They will have the support and care of the elder leadership team.
Systems are in place to assure that Neffsville runs as smoothly as possible over this three-month period. Of course, there will be challenges that we have not considered – there always are, but we have exceptional people and the leading of the Holy Spirit to get us through. Again – Thank you for this opportunity for rest, renewal, and spiritual formation.
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