Alex and Karen write …

A sabbatical is an extended time of sabbath.  It involves resting and recharging to bring about rejuvenation. Our sabbatical will be a time for us to invest in praying, reading, thinking and studying as we reflect on our history and as we look towards our future.

Sabbaticals are commonly practised in many church denominations, including the Vineyard. The Vineyard movement nationally encourages their church leaders to take a sabbatical once every seven years, the first starting from the point that the church was initially formed.

Just as a sabbath day involves one ceasing from one’s normal day-to-day roles and responsibilities, so our sabbatical will be a time where we cease being involved in the church. We won’t be coming to anything that is organised by this Vineyard. We hope that by using the time the sabbatical provides to invest in our relationship with each other, and with God, we would benefit and the church will benefit.

When we return, we’ll be resuming our roles at the church.

When are we going?

We plan to take a sabbatical for 3 months starting late June.

What about our other non-church jobs?

We have other jobs – Karen works at the Children’s’ hospital as a Paediatric Consultant and Alex teaches at the University of Huddersfield. These other jobs mean we can’t just be away from Sheffield for three months; we will need to do some work in the hospital and university, but we have managed to arrange a reasonable amount of time off from these roles.

What will we be doing whilst we are away? 

We plan to have time away from Sheffield and to visit people at other churches to glean wisdom. We intend to visit Mile High Vineyard in Denver because they do church in a way that we find interesting.  We also intend to visit Anaheim Vineyard in California which is the founding home of the Vineyard church.

We also intend to make space to hear from God. We have friends who own nice houses in the British countryside and who are happy for us to stay there for free so we can read and think and pray in a secluded place.

Where possible we will also enrol on courses designed to help us invest in our relationship with each other and with God.

Can people contact us whilst we are away?

We will be turning off our phones and not looking at our church emails whilst we are away. The staff and GLT will keep an eye on our communication channels whilst we are away.

We think it’s going to be extremely hard for us not to spend time with our vineyard family, because we love you all so much. However, what we would ask is that you don’t attempt to directly contact us whilst we are away. By taking some time out we will be able to better engage in resting and recharging.

Who will hold the fort?

We don’t lead this church on our own, we share the leadership with Ellie and Callum, John, Rog and Jane, and Matt.  We call ourselves the GLT – The General Leadership Team, but then we have here a myriad of Lifegroup leaders, ministry leaders, and people with influence and responsibilities.

Whilst the GLT will continue to lead the church, we’ve asked John Lea-Wilson to take an overall position of leadership whilst we are away and for him to act as though he were the Senior Pastor.

We will stand by any decisions made by him and the GLT upon our return, and we can say that with complete ease because we know them well, we see their character and their love for this church and we trust their judgements.

The reality is that John will work closely with the GLT and others and will seek their advice; it is not envisaged that John would act on any important decisions with first seeking and weighing up the advice that the GLT gives, just as we do now.

What should you do if there is an emergency?

In an emergency or a matter of significant importance, in the first instance, go to John or the GLT.  The reality is, we don’t make significant decisions in isolation – we discuss all big things with them.

This church is governed by a group of trustees made up of professional accountants and solicitors and HR consultants and other experts who look after legal and financial matters. We are also accountable to our Area Leaders – David and Alison Flowers of Leeds Vineyard. Furthermore, we have overseers within the wider Vineyard Church – Peter and Rosemary Sturrock, who are now retired but once led three Vineyard churches. John and the GLT will be surrounded by these heroes of the faith, all of whom are eager to assist, and are but a phone call away.

What do we think will happen in the church and because of the church whilst we are away?

There are two things that we’ve asked John and the GLT not to do whilst we’re away. We’ve asked them to not fire any members of staff, and we’ve asked them not to initiate widespread spiritual revival that causes the city of Sheffield to be full of people who are full of life – at least not whilst we’re away. Seriously, other than the firing of staff, we’ve haven’t set any conditions because we completely trust them.

We hope to not return to a long ‘to do’ list, but that they will make all the decision that we would otherwise make.

What can you do whilst we are away?

If you regard yourself as belonging to this church family then we trust that you will pray for John and the GLT as your leaders – that’s what the Bible tells you to do.

After that, be present. Get involved. Do amazing things that will usher the Kingdom of God into your heart and into our city.

Our hope and expectation is that whilst we are away, this church family, under their leadership, will flourish, will grow, will extend its impact over our city, and will draw people into a new and deeper relationship with Jesus.

Our hope and expectation is that you will be empowered and equipped to make disciples in your everyday lives, to proclaim the Christian Gospel message through works and practices such that our city will change to become full of people who are full of life.

Far from the church pressing the pause button, our hope and expectation is that whilst we away, you go into fast forward, you turn the volume up such that when we’ve finished drinking our pinacolatos, we come back and we are amazed at the goodness of God and those of you who follow Him.

How can you pray for us?

Pray that we become still enough to hear everything that Jesus wants to say to us because we want to grow as leaders and prepare for all that God has in store for us in the years ahead.