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Bishop Ely: My Sabbatical Plans

logoJune 24, 2014 

My Sabbatical Plans
July 1 to October 30, 2014

Dear friends and colleagues:

It is with a grateful heart that I prepare to begin my second sabbatical since becoming Bishop of Vermont in 2001. My last sabbatical was December 2006 to March 2007. I am grateful that our diocese makes provision for sabbatical time for its bishop, other clergy and some lay employees. During this sabbatical I will be away from my day to day responsibilities as bishop from July 1st to October 30th.

The Merriam-Webster online dictionary defines sabbatical (in part) as a period of time during which someone does not work at his or her regular job and is able to rest, travel, do research, etc. A break or change from a normal routine (as of employment). I plan to do some of all the above!

During this sabbatical my attention will focus on the subject of dignity, a subject of ongoing interest to me, especially as I continue to be influenced by the work of Donna Hicks and her book, Dignity: The Essential Role It Plays in Resolving Conflict in Our Lives and Relationships, which I commend to your own reading and study. You can learn more about the work of Donna Hicks at her website http://declaredignity.com/ . My focus will be on the way dignity contributes to the Church’s primary ministry of participation in God’s reconciliation mission in the world. I will be privileged to look at this through the lens of two very different cultures in other parts of the world.

The first of my travels will be to Jerusalem. This will be my third trip to the Holy Land, however this time my pilgrimage will not be as part of a group and Ann will not be traveling with me. It will be a pilgrimage focused more on relationships than sacred sites. I will be in Jerusalem and other Holy Land communities from July 22nd to August 4th and I will be meeting with a variety of people and groups, many of whom are connected with Kids4Peace. To learn more about Kids4Peace go here: http://www.k4p.org/ When I return from Jerusalem I will participate in the two Jerusalem PeaceBuilders Leadership Camps in Brattleboro, Vermont. These remarkable 10-day camps, directed by the Reverend Nicholas Porter and his wife Dorothy, bring together 15 Jewish, Muslim and Christian teenagers (ages 16-17) who have been chosen as a result of their  capacity and potential as leaders. Each camp will host 10 teenagers from Jerusalem and 5 from the United States. I am honored and privileged by the invitation to be part of these leadership camps. To learn more go to: http://jerusalempeacebuilders.org/

The other major travel of my sabbatical will be to Taiwan and Japan. The House of Bishops of the Episcopal Church and our spouses (Yes, Ann is going!) will gather in the Diocese of Taiwan for our annual fall conference September 16-24. Taiwan, as I hope you know, is part of the Episcopal Church, and once every three years the Presiding Bishop arranges for the House of Bishops to gather in one of the non-USA dioceses. This will be my first travel to this part of the world and I am looking forward to it (well, not the plane ride) with great anticipation.

Following the official meeting of the House of Bishops, Ann and I will travel to Japan as part of a 5-day trip being sponsored by the Anglican Church of Japan. After that we will return to Taiwan for another week with Bishop David Lai and his wife Lili who will be our hosts for an extended time of visitation, conversation and presence with the people of that diocese. Bishop Lai and I were ordained as bishops the same year, so we are classmates and friends. He has traveled to every meeting of the House of Bishops since his ordination and so now we get to honor him and join him on his home turf.

Most of the rest of my sabbatical will be spent at our house in Newfane, Vermont. Ann and I will host Camp Grams and Grandpa for two weeks in July (one week for each of our granddaughters) and so we look forward to some adventures during those weeks! There is time built in to my sabbatical for a retreat at SSJE, reading, golf and work around our Newfane house.

During the time I am on sabbatical, Canon Lynn Bates and the rest of the diocesan Ministry Support Team will attend to things as they arise. Bishop Steven Lane from the Diocese of Maine is on call as needed, just as I was for him during his recent sabbatical. My diocesan e-mail account will be directed to my Assistant, Susan Kremer, who will attend to matters as needed in consultation with Canon Bates. We’ve tried to put in place the necessary plans to make sure things don’t fall through the cracks, and I ask your indulgence and forgiveness in advance for anything that might. I’ve been doing my best in the final few weeks prior to sabbatical to catch up on my email and other matters and I hope I have covered all things essential. Again, please forgive me where I may have come up short and don’t hesitate to reach out to Susan and Lynn as needed.

Elsewhere, I have outlined what we are calling Becoming More Missional, a year-long process of discernment and visioning that will help us prepare for the future of our diocese. This work is already underway and will continue through (and beyond) my sabbatical. To read more about this process please go to: https://www.diovermont.org/missional

I return from sabbatical just prior to Diocesan Convention at Jay Peak October 31st and November 1st. I am anticipating a very inspiring Convention. The program planning  team, under the leadership of the Reverend Carole Wageman, is hard at work and I am confident that those who attend Convention will receive many gifts from the program they are planning.

Likewise, the Dispatch of Business Committee, under the leadership of Chuck Bongiorno and Convention Secretary Neal Robinson, has matters of detail, schedule and all things Convention well in hand. You can find out more information about Convention via this link: https://www.diovermont.org/convention

During my sabbatical, I ask for your prayers for my safe travel and for this important time of rest, reflection and renewal. I ask you to pray for the future of the Episcopal  Church in Vermont as we engage the Becoming More Missional process. I ask your support of the other members of the diocesan Ministry Support Team and the many leadership bodies, committees and commissions that will carry on the work of the Episcopal Church in Vermont at the diocesan level during my time apart.

Most of all, I encourage you to continue the journey we have been on for these past 13+ years together toward a deeper understanding and practice of baptismal ministry and baptismal living, and what it means for us to be faithful in our participation in God’s mission as the Episcopal Church in Vermont. I invite you to reflect on the reality that each of our congregations, and indeed each individual member of our diocese, IS the Episcopal Church in Vermont. There really is no Episcopal Church in Vermont apart from the collective expression of the ministries of each individual and each community of faith.

I feel quite privileged to share in this ministry with you, and please know that I will continue to hold you in my prayers during this time of sabbatical.

Faithfully yours in Christ,

+Thomas

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