A Time For Rest
by Rector Chris Girata
“Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while." —Mark 6:31
Many of you know me well enough to know that I love what I do, and I spend a lot of time doing it. Being a priest in the Church, specifically sharing ministry with you at Saint Michael, is a gift in my life. In preparation for my seventh year at Saint Michael (seven-time flies when you’re having fun!), my family and I stepped out of our regular habits to get some intentional, extended time to rest.
Rest is not something I’ve historically done well. I’m a bit more energetic than average and can keep my engine running naturally. And yet, our faith gives us solid, consistent models of rest that go right back to Jesus himself. Over and over again, Jesus steps away from his public ministry, often with his disciples, to rest and to pray. In the sixth chapter of Mark, we see an example of this when Jesus says to his disciples, “Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while (Mark 6:31).” Rest is essential and critical for our health and for our long-term ministry impact.
Over the summer, I was able to take some intentional time away on a sabbatical. A sabbatical is meant to be more than just time away, more than a vacation. Sabbaticals are meant to enrich and renew one’s spiritual life and passion for ministry. This is the first time I’ve ever taken a sabbatical, and I admit it took some time to figure out what a good sabbatical should be. I really like what I do and wasn't keen to step away from the work I love, at first. However, given the amount of work we did during the pandemic and the way we continue to push forward with our shared mission, I listened to the gentle, loving nudges of those around me to take time for renewal.
This summer was an ideal time for my family. Nicole and I are in that “golden period” when all three of our children are the right ages to do everything together (our oldest was young enough and our youngest was old enough). We capitalized on the amazing pilgrimage I led to see the Passion Play in Oberammergau, Germany, and spent the bulk of the sabbatical in Europe. In addition to visiting major cities on the continent, we spent a significant amount of time in the UK.
As you might expect, we saw lots and lots of churches! We saw churches big and small everywhere we went. Our experience in sacred spaces was especially powerful in the UK, where we visited some of the most significant and historic places of worship in the Anglican world. From evening prayer with the Archbishop of Canterbury to participating in the once-in-a-decade Lambeth Conference, we had a most incredible experience.
While apart from our Saint Michael community, it was important to me that the good work we started continued, setting us up for further growth in the coming year. I’m very grateful to the Wardens and Vestry for their support of my sabbatical, and grateful to the amazing staff and lay leaders who didn’t miss a beat while I was gone.
Time away is a gift for any of us. Like many of you, I don’t take enough time to break from the hustle and routine of my regular life to find renewal. If you’re better than me at finding time to go away and rest, keep it up! For the rest of you, I hope you’ll receive this little nudge from me, just as I received nudges from my friends in leadership at Saint Michael, and find some time to separate from your day-to-day and seek after God, listening to what is being said to you.
As incredible as my sabbatical was, I’m even more invigorated to be back home and with you. What we have in front of us truly ignites me, and to be walking with you makes the work we share a gift. For that and for our many blessings, I am so very grateful!
The Girata family with the Most Rev. and the Rt Hon. the Lord Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby.
**This article was written by the Rev. Dr. Chirstopher D. Girata and was featured in the 2022 Winter Archangel.