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Eugene Peterson writes that "Sabbatical years are the biblically based provision for restoration". As I have prepared for my April through June sabbatical, I have thought about what would create the space in which I can be restored, renewed, and refreshed for pastoral ministry. I am looking forward to learning, praying, and reflecting through experiences like retreats at the Iona Community in Scotland and a delegation to Colombia with Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT). I will also have more unplanned times to rest, play, read, write, and recharge my relationship with God.

Sabbatical leave benefits the pastor and the congregation. When I began planning a year ago, I wrote this for MCEC: "My hope is that my congregation will benefit greatly from having a renewed, re-energized, re-vitalized pastor, ready for the next stage of ministry together. A self-aware and spiritually healthy pastor is one who hopefully listens better, laughs easier, leads more creatively and loves more freely."

Please pray with me and for me during this time, and support those who may carry extra responsibilities in my absence. May God keep our going out and our coming in from this time on and forevermore. ~ Pastor Alissa Bender