Taking a Sabbatical: The Gift of Rest and Loving Our Neighbors

February 25, 2022

A note from Reynolds Chapman, DurhamCares Executive Director, on his upcoming sabbatical March 22-May 31, 2022.

In the summer of 2021, my family went through a significant transition, and the first response of the DurhamCares board was, “Do you need a sabbatical?” It was an interesting question. Do I need a sabbatical? If “need,” I thought, meant I wasn’t going to survive – spiritually, physically, emotionally, vocationally – without taking a sabbatical, then probably not. I was pretty sure I would get by (imperceptive as that might have been). But if a sabbatical is what I “need” to be my healthiest – spiritually, physically, emotionally, vocationally – and to be the best team member at DurhamCares, then perhaps I do need a sabbatical. And if a sabbatical for me is what DurhamCares needs to be the healthiest organization it can be, then yes, maybe I do need a sabbatical. So, after an overwhelming feeling of deep gratitude for one of the best boards in the history of nonprofits, I said, “Yeah, that would be amazing.”

We often remind ourselves at DurhamCares that we want to embody our mission. We mobilize people throughout our city to care for their neighbors in holistic ways; how inconsistent, and even strange, it would be if we didn’t care for ourselves and each other in holistic ways. In fact, we’ve recently been working on our personnel policies, and decided to include a sabbatical for all full-time employees after six years. It was a way of pledging that sabbath will not merely be something to which we acquiesce because someone faces a crisis, but rather something we receive as a gift from God because God tells us we need it.

This doesn’t mean I don’t feel some degree of unease. Ironically, a week after my sabbatical starts, we are hosting an event on Dr. King’s Letter from Birmingham Jail, in which he emphasizes the urgency of action, saying, “justice too long delayed is justice denied.” It’s easy to feel like I’m choosing to escape the important work that needs to be done. But I’m reminded that we fail to love our neighbors when we believe the false dichotomy between work and rest, action and contemplation, encounter and reflection. Walter Brueggemann, in Sabbath as Resistance, says “Sabbath is practical divestment so that neighborly engagement, rather than production and consumption, defines our lives.”

Some of you may be wondering what’s going to happen with DurhamCares programming. The answer is that it won’t be much different. We have an incredible team who will sustain the work while I’m on sabbatical. Some have asked me what I’ll do for those two months. And the only thing I have planned is to spend time with my family – no projects, no goals. And I can’t wait to do that.

The sabbatical will begin March 22 and go through May 31. If you need anything during that time, please contact Miriam Valle, Programs and Operations Coordinator, at [email protected], or Delvin Davis, Board Chair, at [email protected].

Thank you,

Reynolds

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