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Sabbaticals help recharge clergy

By Carla Hinton Modified: July 19, 2008 at 5:31 pm •  Published: July 19, 2008
What is your pastor doing this summer?

How about the minister next door?

Maybe not what you think.

Some faith leaders are taking trips to Europe, visiting retreat centers and singing their way across the country by way of clergy sabbaticals.

These sabbaticals are seen as ways to re-energize ministers and combat burnout.

The Rev. John Regan will return to his pulpit at Western Oaks Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in August after a 90-day sabbatical. He said sabbaticals can benefit a pastor and his congregation because they help refresh a preacher's passion for ministry and overall zest for life.

"I'm excited. I have lots of ideas. I'm rested. I'm looking forward to the next five years,” Regan said from his current destination of choice, Our Lady of Guadalupe Monastery in Pecos, N.M.

The Rev. Diana Northcutt, director of local church youth ministries with the Oklahoma United Methodist Conference, agreed with Regan's assessment. She said she decided to take a 30-day sabbatical because she knew she needed some self-care and she did not want to burn out.

"Preachers are the worst about taking care of themselves. I think it's hard for us to get away because we have so many responsibilities,” Northcutt said.

"Since I've done it, I will definitely be doing it again.”

Planning for leisure, study, reflection
Regan said his sabbatical is funded through a $32,500 grant from Lilly Endowment. The Rev. Greg Bunton, an associate pastor and music minister at First Christian Church of Edmond (Disciples of Christ), also received a grant from the same foundation to go on his current sabbatical to perform at churches across America.

The Rev. Chris Shorow, First Christian Church of Edmond's senior pastor, said Bunton discussed his sabbatical with the church's pastoral relations committee.

In May, Bunton, 36, of Edmond held a kick-off concert for his musical tour promoting his album "Keep It Simple” at the church, 201 E Second. He is traveling with his wife, Julie, and two children, with plans to visit 31 cities and perform 19 concerts. He said churches provide love offerings to help support the tour, and 10 percent of those funds are going to charity. He said he also is planning to attend the Gospel Music Association's Music in the Rockies event in August in Estes Park, Colo., for a week of workshops dealing with worship leadership, songwriting and singing.

Meanwhile, Regan, 46, said he shared information about the grant with his congregation at Western Oaks, 8100 NW 23, and members thought the sabbatical was a good idea.

Regan said to obtain the grant, he had to submit a proposal outlining what he would do on sabbatical.

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The Rev. John Regan, pastor of Western Oaks Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), stops in London's Trafalgar Square with his son, Samuel, 14. Provided


Greg Bunton, First Christian Church of Edmond (Disciples of Christ): Music tour across America plus Gospal Music Association's Music in the Rockies event in Estes Park, Colo.

John Regan, Western Oaks Christian Church (Disciples of Christ): European tour and two retreats at Pecos, N.M.

Diana Northcutt, Oklahoma Conference United Methodist Church: Trip to Ione, Scotland, and tour of the British Isles.

Tom Cole, Union Baptist Association: Trip to Europe following steps of Protestant reformers.


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