If you look at my current contract with the church, it says that I get so many days off a year and so many personal days for medical emergencies and the like.
When I first came to be the pastor here, there were conversations with the personnel committee about the details of all of my “off time.” I remember seeking to explain to the chair of the committee who wanted to offer me a certain number of hours off a week, that this just made no sense. Hours off? I had no idea how this would work. I explained that the only real time off I recieved best came in chunks– when I could take a week or more of time to be off call, in another place, not responsible for sermon writing, visiting and email responses.
Yet, the longer I do this job, I know that being on vacation is like a myth that might only come when I’m no longer employed.
I say this not because I have some super high maintenance congregation of folks who ask for my constant attention– who constantly call me on my off days and expect an email reply right away. (I’m very blessed, I know). But, I believe that vacation is a myth. It is not how the pastoral vocation goes and those who seek to engage it are wired.
Last week, Kevin and I had the opportunity to take a southern tour of sorts with stops among both of our families in Tennessee and Georgia. It was a action packed road trip of stops along several points of importance to both of us.
And, so, I did not preach on the last Sunday of June. I did not Skype into committee meetings. I did not reply to many emails. I really tried to be present and enjoy the time with family and friends that I normally don’t get to spend as much time with. But, in the end, I wouldn’t say that I stopped working, though.
I got ideas about a new hymnbook that I would like our congregation to explore using while sitting in a congregation for worship on Sunday morning.
I experienced conversations with friends that raised questions in me about my own sense of calling and what this means for my congregation.
I watched movies with themes that I probably will explore in upcoming sermons.
I read a wonderful book about the rhythms of pastoral life that I would never have time to complete and digest in regular week of work.
I talked about what I do, when asked, at a gathering and doors were opened for ongoing dialogue with new friends about issues of faith.
I stayed in touch with my congregation through the wonderful world of social media . . . that I would do anyway, in town or not.
Though I have some friends who would say to me, “Just turn your brain off. Stop thinking. Stop working. You are on vacation after all.” I can’t though. I am pastor not just when I meet the hours a week required of me for my job, but in real life wherever it takes me. Some may call me me an overachiever, while many would come to understand this as calling.
Vacations made us better at what we do, as pastors, not because we simply go away and do nothing, but because we keep our hearts open to the fresh wind of the Spirit. The last time I checked the Spirit always seems to find me, even on vacation.