“The apostles gathered around Jesus, and told him all that they had done and taught. He said to them, ‘Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while.’ For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat. And they went away in the boat to a deserted place by themselves.”
Rest is an integral part of life. All living creatures have cycles of activity and rest. We all know how we’re affected – mentally, physically, socially, emotionally and especially spiritually – when we don’t rest, don’t get enough sleep, don’t have enough balance between work and leisure. We anticipate our holidays so eagerly – almost desperately – because we often shortchange our need for rest. We all too frequently describe ourselves as exhausted, drained, spent. Not resting is costly. And it’s contrary to the will of God.
We know that God hallows rest. In the very opening chapter of the bible, at the end of the story of Creation, we hear that ours is a God who personally rested. And God commands that we too rest, by keeping a Sabbath and calling it holy. Jesus himself frequently modelled rest, taking intentional time away from others, even his own disciples, for restoration and prayer.
Rest is one of the first things we sacrifice when crisis strikes. We become so caught up in dealing with the emergency that we put our own needs on hold and focus on the needs of the moment, of others. Never was this more in evidence than amongst our clergy over the past 27 months.
Friends, I cannot say how very grateful I am for the super-human efforts made by the clergy of the Diocese of Toronto during the pandemic. I have said it before and I will say it again: to my beloved priests and deacons, thank you. Thank you for your sacrificial care of your church families, gathering the faithful in prayer and creating community in whatever ways and means you could – even learning new skills to do so. Thank you for sustaining this Church through the darkest of days and the deepest of challenges. You have been simply wonderful, and we as a Diocese would not be where we are today without your faithfulness.
But while your efforts have been tireless, I do know that you are tired. Deeply tired. You deserve and need a rest.
And so, it is my privilege and joy to announce today that we are establishing a Mini-Sabbatical Program. Every cleric (priest or deacon) who served in an appointment for a minimum of one year during the pandemic, and is currently in an appointment in this Diocese, is entitled to one 10-day mini-sabbatical, including one Sunday, with pay, for rest and restoration. This policy is in place and may be applied over the next 14 months, between July 1, 2022, and Aug. 31, 2023. The full policy is available on the Clergy Leaves page of our website.
You’ll see that we’re trying to make this policy as generous, as flexible and as simple as possible. We hope that parishes will receive it and enable it in that same spirit of generosity and gratitude. We hope that clergy will take advantage of this opportunity without feelings of guilt and responsibility for the days, including the Sunday, that they will be off.
One of the true benefits of the pandemic is that we have learned to be together, and to worship together, in new ways: online, in partnership with other parishes, with lay officiants, and when necessary without celebrations of the Eucharist. These are valuable adaptations that can serve us well in non-pandemic times too. If required, I hope every parish can apply these learnings to give their clergy the Sabbath that they need and deserve.
Now that I have started attending parishes in person again, I’ve heard from every congregation that I’ve visited the words of appreciation for their clergy who have shepherded church families through the last two years. It is time to honour that hard work and dedication with thanksgiving to God.
May we all bless ourselves with the gift of rest. As we begin the summer season, I encourage all of us to do so!
Yours in Christ,
The Rt. Rev. Andrew Asbil
Bishop of Toronto