Thursday, July 23, 2015

transitions: sabbatical liturgy

A feature of academic life is the sabbatical. It involves time away from the rhythm of teaching. It clears space for research and professional development. It is like compost. Adding layers of material, that over time, can be added to gardens; that over time, slowly add structure, enhance water retention and provide nutrients. So a sabbatical provides layers, that over the next season of teaching, enrich and advance.

At Uniting College, faculty can apply for sabbatical after six semesters. I’ve been thinking for a while that we need some sort of team liturgy that marks the transition that is inevitable around sabbatical. This would help the person going and the people staying, providing a theological frame to a transition and underling values important to the organisation.

So last night I created a transition into sabbatical liturgy. Since the Uniting College is a Uniting Church College, it involved a mixing of Basis of Union and some Scripture (Psalm 42), along with the core values of UCLT. It’s new (and undoubtedly can be improved), but here is what it looks like.

Sabbatical season Liturgy

The purpose of the Outside Studies Program is to provide faculty with an opportunity to carry out sustained scholarly research or to gain other professional development that will maintain and enhance the quality and effectiveness of the College’s teaching and research. During this program the faculty member will be relieved of all teaching and administrative responsibilities. (Outside Study Leave Policy 2012)

In preparation
The person going on sabbatical stands in the middle and is surrounded by colleagues. The Basis of Union Paragraph 11 is read. Time it given for those gathered to mentally consider individual names …

The Uniting Church acknowledges that God has never left the Church without faithful and scholarly interpreters of Scripture, or without those who have reflected deeply upon, and acted trustingly in obedience to, God’s living Word.

Recall the name of a saint who has gone before …

In particular the Uniting Church enters into the inheritance of literary, historical and scientific enquiry which has characterised recent centuries, and gives thanks for the knowledge of God’s ways with humanity which are open to an informed faith.

Recall the name of an enquirer into knowledge of God and humanity …

The Uniting Church lives within a world-wide fellowship of Churches in which it will learn to sharpen its understanding of the will and purpose of God by contact with contemporary thought.

Recall the name of an artist from the world-wide church …

Within that fellowship the Uniting Church also stands in relation to contemporary societies in ways which will help it to understand its own nature and mission.

Recall the name of a church community that has helped you understand mission ….

The Uniting Church thanks God for the continuing witness and service of evangelist, of scholar, of prophet and of martyr.

Recall the name of an evangelist, scholar, prophet, martyr ….

It prays that it may be ready when occasion demands to confess the Lord in fresh words and deeds.

After a time of contemplation, the service continues

ALL: The Lord be with you
Sean: And also with you

Hands open in blessing

ALL: Deep calls to deep
In the thunder of God’s waterfalls
Leader: You are called, to be Centred in Christ, Grounded in Scripture
Question: DD, in an act of commitment, will you follow Christ anew into this sabbatical season? I will

Hands down in releasing
ALL: All your breakers and waves have gone over me
The Lord will grant his loving-kindness in the day time
Leader: We thank you for seasons
For the six semesters you have labored, Engaging in teaching, Fostering innovation

DD, as an act of praise, will you name among us the classes you have taught and/or the students you have supervised and/or the core tasks you have completed?

Hands together in prayer
Leader: And on the seventh you shall rest
DD, You are called to step away from this inclusive community,
You have been given time to pursue excellence in scholarship
ALL: Through the night God’s song will be with us
A prayer to the God of our life
Leader: DD, you are invited to breath in the silence of this seventh season

Pause in a time of silence

Hands open in blessing
Leader: Surrounded by clouds of witnesses, missional practitioners, inspiring leaders, who foster in us fresh words and deeds
ALL: Those gathered are invited to name aloud the individuals recalled from the contemplation of paragraph 11

And so with these witness, together we say The Lords prayer,

DD: The Lord be with you
ALL: And also with you

Posted by steve at 06:58 PM


  1. Thanks Steve for this formative sabbatical liturgy: much appreciated.
    Just wondering. Some liturgies use
    “The Lord is with you” rather than ” The Lord be with you.”
    I prefer the former, recognising God in Christ active within the other person(s).
    Towards the end, after the blessing, releasing and prayer and silence would not
    the greeting “The Lord is with you” be powerfully moving, affirming and sending?
    Just a thought.
    Regards, John.

    Comment by John Littleton — July 24, 2015 @ 4:52 pm

  2. Thanks John. What I did like was the inversion – the liturgy began with one party taking the initative with The Lord be with you; ending with the other party taking the initative.

    I like The Lord be with you. Poetically the “b” in “be” is stronger when spoken that the “i” in “is.” So it sounds stronger.

    I do agree that “is” has a sense of God already there/missio dei. Equally “be” can be presence in a missio dei type of way.


    Comment by steve — July 24, 2015 @ 10:59 pm

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