The mission of the Center for Congregational Resources (CCR) is to help clergy and congregations thrive. We fulfill this mission by helping them find, obtain and use the best resources available to address the challenges, opportunities and possibilities they identify.
Participants in the Sabbath Leave Program of the CCR are interviewed at the close of their sabbatical experiences. These hour-long conversations are typically filled with meaningful stories of renewal, wholeness and re-connection with Call. We have learned much about the meaning of Sabbath from the comments of these ministers.
Common themes that emerge range from down-to-earth realities to significant theological insights. For example, nearly all participants in Sabbaticals longer than a few weeks have told us that only after a couple of weeks' time were they able to "disengage" from their ministerial roles. Curiously, ministers – who preach and teach the importance of honoring Sabbath to renew awareness of God's presence and grace – often have difficulty entering Sabbath rest.
Perhaps the most important theological insight we have gleaned from exit interviews is the challenge of balancing "being" and "doing." Relentless demands of pastoral ministry exist in a culture that values individual wants over needs and has changing – and unclear – expectations of ministers. Such an environment can influence even the most conscientious and self-aware ministers to be more concerned with the "doing" of pastoral ministry than "being" a pastoral minister.
Marva Dawn, in her fine book, Keeping the Sabbath Wholly, writes about the importance of ceasing, resting, embracing, and feasting. Her theme is based on a quote attributed to Martin Luther: "The spiritual rest which God especially intends in this commandment [to keep the Sabbath holy] is that we not only cease from our labor…but much more – that we let God alone work in us and that in all our powers do we do nothing of our own."
The most effective pastoral ministers give attention to keeping in balance the daily challenges of being God's beloved while doing the work of leading a congregation.
CCR Project Director
Dr. Marler received her B.S. from Auburn University, an M.S.S.W. from the University of Louisville, and her M.Div. and Ph.D. from the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Dr. Marler is a sociologist of religion with scholarly interest in contemporary American religion, and especially, the relationship between church and society. Her grant-funded research has focused on the shape and future of American Protestantism, cross-national trends in church involvement among Protestants and Catholics, and most recently, the impact of peer learning on pastoral leaders and their congregations. Her grant-related administrative work includes the development of the theological exploration of vocation and the sustaining pastoral excellence initiatives at Samford. She also is a Research Fellow for the Center for Congregational Resources. Dr. Marler has published numerous scholarly articles and essays. She was a co-author of Being There: Culture and Formation in Two Theological Schools (Oxford University Press, 1997) which received the Distinguished Book Award from the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion in 1998. She also collaborated with an international panel of sociologists of religion in a study of young Roman Catholics, which resulted in the book, Young Catholics at the New Millennium: The Religion and Morality of Young Adults in Western Countries (University of Dublin Press, 2000). More recently, she worked with a group of project director peers in the Lilly Endowment, Inc.’s Sustaining Pastoral Excellence initiative to produce the coauthored book, So Much Better: How Thousands of Pastoral Help Each Other Thrive (Chalice Press, 2013). Her ongoing research interests include religion in America, theories of religious change, and congregational dynamics. Marler retired from full-time teaching at Samford in 2013, but continues to research, write, and serve as a Research Fellow for the Center for Congregational Resources.Contact Dr. Marler via Samford's Religion Department (726-2925) or the Center for Congregational Resources (726-4064) Download a complete CV for Penny Marler