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In an address to his congregation during Sunday morning worship, The Rev. Howard John Wesley announced his need to take a Ministry Sabbatical from his duties as Pastor at the historic, Alfred Street Baptist Church in Alexandria, VA.
Wesley has been the pastor of Alfred Street for the past 11 years, leading four services every weekend, averaging 4,500 in attendance and 50,000 viewers online.
“There is a weight a pastor bears in their soul and their emotions that is inescapable,” he said. “there’s not a day in these past 11 years that I have not woken up and knew that there’s something I had to do for the church, that I have to be available for a call, that I journey with people through the highs and the lows of life, through the great moments of celebration and in the valley of death.”
A fourth-generation Baptist preacher, Wesley said he’s not burned out and that he’s still excited about the job, but that he’s tired and needs “an intermission”.
With tears in his eyes, he said “I feel so distant from God,” he said. One of the greatest mistakes of pastoring is to think that because you work for God, you’re close to God.”
He said he has some spiritual goals while he is away.
“I want to read the Bible from Genesis to Revelation without trying to write a sermon,” he said. “I want to travel and go sit in the back of somebody’s church and hear the word of God and not be worried about what time we got to get out for the next crowd.”
He told his congregation, I ain’t going to die in this pulpit! You’re not going to roll me out of here in a wheelchair…I’ve got life to live. I’ve got golf courses to play”
A Duke University study in 2007 found that 85 percent of seminary graduates leave the ministry within five years, and only 1 in 10 retire as a pastor. To combat clergy burnout, the Lilly Endowment, a foundation based in Indianapolis, has awarded thousands of dollars in grants under the National Clergy Renewal Program so churches can give pastors sabbaticals.
Pastor Howard John Wesley will be on sabbatical from January 1 to April 12, returning on Easter Sunday.
Source | Washington Post