When a pastor as beloved as Sterling Severns takes off for 3 months on a sabbatical, it’s hard for the congregation not to wonder if the summer pace will be a little slower, the program offerings a bit leaner, as if the church is simply biding its time until the senior pastor returns.
Not so at Tabernacle Baptist Church. This Sabbatical Summer has turned out to be a beautiful beehive of programs, meaningful worship, and new activities. We found ourselves challenged by sermons. We were inspired by the variety of musical performances, and we were encouraged to know each other better through joyful and informal sabbatical activities like arts and craft sessions, soccer games, baseball games, ESL classes, an ice cream/book discussion night, and a family movie night. New this summer was a monthly series of open-mike nights (stand-up comedy, magic shows, musical performances, storytelling) — popular enough that they may just become a permanent offering. Some church members took to the road to visit former TBC parishioners.
All this was planned, organized, and executed by Dan, Judy, and Kristen, a team of three talented staffers who seemed to be everywhere at once, all summer long. It is impossible to overestimate the amount of work it took for Dan to craft thoughtful sermons and organize the liturgical themes with musical support from our multi-talented Judy (music that Ron, Terri, and a nimble-fingered Ryan helped to execute). Kristen, serving as our pastoral intern this summer, and who is virtually unflappable, stepped up to enlist and guide all of the summer’s volunteer readers, prayers, and presenters.
These three staffers wore multiple hats all summer. Kristen drove vans and entertained children. Dan set up A/V equipment and borrowed popcorn machines, led book talks, and kept the food pantry stocked. Judy baked snacks to feed participants in evening programs and went on the road with our youth to camps and to visit RBC former parishioners.
Under Dan, Judy, and Kristen’s capable leadership, never once did summer worship and programs falter or suffer from a lack of planning. In fact, some first-time visitors were unaware that they were visiting a church whose senior pastor was on sabbatical. Worship was vibrant. Attendance was strong. The church felt whole, and full of the Holy Spirit.
Dan, Judy, and Kristen — we, your congregation, are grateful to you for using your gifts to minister to us all summer long. You are powerful leaders, and we cannot imagine this Sabbatical summer without you. Thank you.