Sample Proposal 3

Purpose and Rationale

I am applying to the Resource Center for Pastoral Excellence Sabbath Leave program in order to pursue for myself what I have helped provide for others. Since 1987, I have either been on staff in a church setting or served as the pastoral leader in a community of faith. For the last five years I have served as the founding director of the Center for Ministry, a shared work of the Mississippi Conference of the United Methodist Church and Millsaps College. In seventeen years of active ministry, I have not taken a Sabbath leave. Establishing the Center for Ministry has provided five years of challenging and rewarding work, but it has also been emotionally and spiritually draining. The purpose of applying for this Sabbath leave is to refocus my energy, to renew my spirit, and revisit my own calling to ministry. To be in Birmingham for extended periods of time will provide the needed physical and emotional distance from work responsibilities. Samford's campus will provide an excellent atmosphere in which to study, write, reflect, converse, and rest.

The Center for Ministry is a unique partnership between the Mississippi Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church and Millsaps College. Launched in 1999, its task is to foster leadership for effective ministry in the Church, College, and Community. As the founding director and now the Executive Director, it has been my task to identify the needs in clergy professional formation and lay education and design learning experiences that broaden knowledge, deepen faith, and sharpen skills for ministry (see enclosed brochures). My own need for renewal and Sabbath gave birth to portions of the Center's Pastoral Excellence Project (a Lilly Endowment funded program similar to the Resource Center for Pastoral Excellence). The multi-faceted design of our project allows for pastors to take Sabbath time in various forms (see enclosed brochure). Unfortunately, as Executive Director of the Center for Ministry, I cannot reap the benefits of our design.

My time in the parish and the work of founding the Center for Ministry have provided incredible learning opportunities for me. If my request for Sabbath Leave is granted, the time away from the demands of a hectic professional and family life will offer a chance to rest and to reflect on ministry in a framework of spiritual development. In addition to the necessary re-creation of Sabbath rest, I will use the time to work on a book-length manuscript that has been in the formative stage for several years. The book will weave together my parish ministry experience and what I have learned through resourcing pastors and congregations. We have observed that those congregations and pastors doing good and faithful ministry exhibit certain characteristics: vital worship, grounded in scripture, value tradition, and a strong sense of community. Those four characteristics will give direction to the manuscript. Its focus will be on worship as spiritual direction for the community of faith (the tentative title is Conversation, Connection, and Covenant). I will propose a framework, grounded in the experience of Old and New Testament communities, for understanding worship through the lens of spiritual direction. As part of that framework, I will design worship resources that can be used in various congregational settings. These resources will include worship services and ideas for including laity in worship planning and leadership. The worship resources, as well as the information for the book, are in various stages of completion. Part of the time on Samford's campus would be used to continue data gathering and in compilation of the resources.

The Resource Center for Pastoral Excellence Sabbath Leave Program will provide much needed distance from daily demands of the office and my supervisory role in the Center for Ministry. The rest, reflection, and writing will renew my spirit and energy to engage the challenges of ministry in the next phase of the Center's existence. I hope the resources produced will benefit the Center for Ministry and the Church. The writing will benefit me as a way of expressing my own calling as a pastor, teacher, and worship leader.

Plan

As stated above, my proposal is to spend time in rest and reflection, to flesh out a book, and to develop worship resources for congregational use. To pursue those goals, I will utilize the Beeson Divinity School library for research, worship with the Samford community, and build relationships with faculty. David Bains, Assistant Professor of Religion, has consented to serve as a consultant on this project. While in Birmingham, I will meet with a spiritual director and a personal trainer. I will utilize the chapel and the beautiful campus for prayer and meditation and the gym for exercise. If it can be arranged, I will spend one week in retreat at the Benedictine monastery in Cullman, Alabama. Weather permitting, I will make several day-hikes in areas around Birmingham.

I will also meet with colleagues who lead worship in Alabama and Mississippi and make resources developed during the Sabbath Leave available for their use. In order to identify these colleagues, I will draw on already established connections with the Institute for Clergy Effectiveness in Alabama and the Resource Center for Pastoral Effectiveness as well as Center for Ministry connections in Mississippi. The Sabbath Leave Program will also allow for conversations with pastors from various traditions and expand my own horizons regarding faith and practice. During the Sabbath Leave, I will utilize the Pitts Library at Candler School of Theology for research and consult with Dr. Don Saliers, professor of systematic theology and worship, as well as other faculty members who may be available.

Compatibility

This proposal is under girded by the same principles that nourish the Sabbath Leave Program. The kind of research, reading, reflection, and writing that I envision for this Sabbath time is best done outside of one's usual context and in a community of scholars and students. It will allow me to reconnect with and rethink my call to ordained ministry and how that ordination serves the Church in my current role as a pastoral leader outside of a parish setting. The community of learners at Samford will allow for community building across traditional dividing lines within the Church. My experience in developing programs for pastoral formation will enrich the conversation and community with the other Sabbath Leave Program participants. The connection with Samford students will also give an opportunity for me to be renewed by their spirit and for me to offer my own insight as one who has served in parish settings and who now finds himself called to a different kind of ministry.

Benefit

The Sabbath Leave would be an experience of grace for me. The major benefit to me will be the realization of a long-time goal of developing resources for worship and compiling them into book form so that they may be used by communities of faith seeking a deeper experience with the Risen One. It will also be a gift to have time away not just to relax, but to expend intellectual and spiritual energy in a way that is not directly tied to my work at the Center for Ministry (though it is certainly congruent with that work). The structure for the Sabbath Leave I am proposing builds in accountability for work produced but also for spiritual discernment and physical self-care. The time away from my office responsibilities will benefit my family as well. Kim (my wife) and two daughters will accompany me to Birmingham for part of the Sabbath Leave. Even when we are not able to be together, the family will benefit from my renewed energy and engagement in the ministry.

As I stated above, others will have access to the worship services, prayers, and liturgies developed during the Sabbath Leave. They will give feedback regarding the usefulness of these resources and will help refine them for wider use. The Center for Ministry and its constituents will benefit through connections I will develop outside of Mississippi during the leave time and from the resources made available.

Preparation

Before applying for the Sabbath Leave project, I sought the support of the Center for Ministry Board of Directors. One of the concerns expressed consistently by the board in their evaluation of me has been that I do not have (or take) time away from the Center's work for rest and reflection. They voted unanimously to support my application to the Resource Center for Pastoral Excellence Sabbath Leave Program. The Center for Ministry's contribution will be to continue my salary while I am on Sabbath leave. I will work with our very able staff to prepare for my time out of the office so that I may engage myself fully in the Sabbath leave.

Timeline

I am asking for eight weeks of Sabbath leave divided into four two-week segments. The division is functional in nature. It would be difficult for me to have extended time out of the office given the multiple events and programs that are part of what we do through the Center for Ministry. The division of time also allows me to design worship resources in advance of the liturgical seasons, distribute them to the congregations that will use them, receive feedback, and refine the resources when I am in residence in Birmingham again. The segmented leave will also allow me to write in stages and review the writing over time.

First segment -- mid-August

  • Spend time in reflection, prayer, meditation
  • Research and draft sections of book
  • Compile and edit resources for All Saints Day and Advent worship
  • Meet with Spiritual Director/retreat in Cullman, AL if can be arranged
  • Meet with Samford Wellnes Coordinator 
  • Day hikes

 

Second segment -- early October

  • Spend time in reflection, prayer, meditation
  • Continue research and drafting book
  • Compile and edit resources for Lent worship
  • Meet with Spiritual Director
  • Meet with Samford Wellness Coordinator
  • Day hikes

 

Third segment -- mid-March

  • Spend time in reflection, prayer, meditation
  • Continue research and drafting book
  • Compile and edit resources for All Saints & Advent worship feedback
  • Meet with Spiritual Director
  • Meet with Samford Wellness Coordinator
  • Day hikes

 

Fourth segment -- early to mid May

  • Spend time in reflection, prayer, meditation
  • Review and edit drafted portions of book
  • Compile and edit resources for Lent worship feedback
  • Meet with Spiritual Director
  • Meet with Samford Wellness Coordinator  
  • Day hikes

 

Depending on their schedules, I will meet with faculty at Beeson Divinity School and Candler School of Theology, Atlanta, during the Sabbath leave. My family will also join me in Birmingham periodically during the Sabbath time. I will take day trips to areas around Birmingham such as Rickwood Cavern, Oak Mountain, and Cheaha state parks to hike.

Budget

Lodging 8 weeks @ $485/week = $3,880

Food $17/day x 56 days (8 wks) = $952

Spiritual Director 8 sessions x $75 = $600

Samford Wellness Center Fitness Program= $150

Resource Person Consults $800

Subtotal $6,552

Total grant request from RCPE $6,552

(Cost for the retreat at the BenedictineSpiritualityCenter will be deducted from the lodging line item above).

Center for Ministry Matching

Continued Salary for 8 weeks of Sabbath leave $10,096

Personal Financial Contribution to the Project (Travel) $ 1,838

8 roundtrips to Birmingham from Jackson MS = $ 1,500
(500 miles x 8 x $0.565)
1 roundtrip from Birmingham to Atlanta = $113
Roundtrips – Birmingham to hiking = $ 225