Rev’d Keith recently had a three-month sabbatical. Here are his reflections on this time:
“I spent the first 2 weeks being in the Cathedral flat near the close. This was a good place to ‘ground’ my sabbatical, to reflect upon what exactly a sabbatical was/is. I knew I was not on ‘holiday’ although rest was a large part of it. I knew it was not ‘study leave’ or ‘retreat’, although I read and prayed. I discovered and concluded that although a sabbatical was not one of the above activities specifically it was all of them concurrently.
I spent another 6 weeks in my Motorhome on sites in North Norfolk. I needed to be away from the parishes without being too far from my family and also had a couple of weeks on the Essex coast. Here I was able to read. Work related reading consisted mostly of reading the Living in Love and Faith document in its entirety – 400+ pages. At first, I found this document quite hard going and was wondering how I would get through it. The personal testimonies and viewpoints incorporated made for a challenging read for what is a very challenging situation. I was also able to take more time over reading the Northumbria Community’s Novitiate Modules as part of my own ongoing Spiritual Development/growth.
A personal project I was able to undertake was to transcribe my Late mother’s diaries about me and my siblings’ childhoods. These diaries are an amusing, reflective and at times sad account of a mother and housewife in the late 1960’s, 1970’s and early 1980’s.
I served on the House Team at Nether Springs, Northumberland, the home of the Northumbria Community. This is the community that was founded in the late 80’s and is the author of the Celtic Daily Prayer series.
To serve in this way and to facilitate others to have a retreat and to connect/reconnect with God was a truly awesome and humbling experience.
I also took the chance to walk to the Holy Island of Lindisfarne across the sands following the ancient path walked by centuries of pilgrims and the ancient saints.
Perhaps the biggest surprise of all for me was to, voluntarily and enthusiastically, participate in dance in worship on Lindisfarne. This is something I had only ever done once before, under duress, some 15+ years ago. I vowed then – never again! This just goes to show, never say never to God.
I have also been seriously challenged during this sabbatical time to review just how my own relationship with God relates to my role as a parish priest, reflecting most challengingly on the fact that I have always trusted my call to ordination. I am now in a challenging, exciting and daunting phase of discernment as to where my vocation is going next. My time at Northumbria has refreshed my resolve to ‘live the questions’ and if necessary, to step out in faith into what I believe is the right next step for me. “