Jesus said to them, “Come away with me. Let us go alone to a quiet place and rest for a while.”
Dear Friends, Clergy and Lay Congregational Leaders in the Diocese of Washington,
Blessings to you in these early February days.
As promised in my address to the Diocesan Convention on January 29, I write to encourage all congregations in the diocese to consider granting every employee an extra week of paid sabbath leave, not counted against vacation or personal days.
This request comes as a pastoral response to the deep fatigue many of our congregational leaders and staff are experiencing as we enter the third year of the Covid pandemic. This is not mandatory, but it is a strong recommendation on my part. The request first came to me from our regional deans, those in our diocese who work closely with our clergy. Others in our diocese and across the wider church have expressed the same concern, and it is one that I share.
I recognize the diversity of life experience and circumstance among our leaders and staff, as well as differing capacity among our congregations to give those in their employ a time of rest. Thus I leave it to you to determine if and how best to make this offering.
Clergy leaders, I ask that you tend to your staffs’ needs first. Vestry members and wardens, I ask that you schedule a meeting with your clergy to ask how best they might find time of rest. And we all do well to monitor congregational expectations for our volunteer leaders, given the sustained increased demands and pressure of their lives.
I’ve asked all the on diocesan staff to look at their calendars and propose to their supervisors when they might take their sabbath rest. We will stagger their time away so not to unduly disrupt our ability to serve you. I plan to take a few extra days surrounding the President’s Day weekend.
As I said in my address, I wish that I could extend this offering beyond the church, so that all in our weary world might have time and space to rest. What I can do is encourage us all to be kind to one another, and to those with whom we interact as we go about our lives.
I also know we aren’t always granted rest when we need it. In those times, it helps me to remember that, right after the passage I quoted above from Mark’s gospel, crowds descended upon Jesus and the disciples. In their fatigue, they labored on for an entire day of ministry that culminated with a meal for multitudes from what little they had–a few loaves of bread and some fish. Yet in the economy of grace, what they offered was more than sufficient. May it be so with us when rest seems elusive.
That said, even Jesus rested after that long day, and so must we, or rest will be forced upon us in other ways. So please take good care of one another, and if at all possible, give one another the gifts of rest.