Now that I’ve signed my faculty contract for next year, I think I can formally announce that I’ll be on sabbatical in fall of 2016.
Having any such sabbath is a remarkable blessing — so first off, I need to thank the trustees, administration, and faculty of Bethel University for making it possible! But this one is especially exciting: Our family will be relocating to the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia for the fall, to live in my parents’ mountain cabin.
Professionally, it means that I’ll have a unique location in which to finish my share of the work on Hope for Better Times: Pietism and the Future of Christianity, the book that I’m co-writing with Mark Pattie for InterVarsity Press. (By the way, look for our preliminary conversation about that project to return to The Pietist Schoolman Podcast this Thursday, as we talk about the importance of the Bible for any project of Christian renewal.) And then I hope to make some headway on what should be my next book: a collection of essays exploring how the study of the past can serve as a kind of spiritual formation.
I’ll also be just a few hours’ drive from Virginia Beach, where the Conference on Faith and History will be holding its biennial conference in October. And while I’m on that side of the
state commonwealth, I’ll have a chance to pay a visit to my undergraduate alma mater — twenty years after I graduated.
But for all the professional benefits of this sabbatical, I’m most grateful that it gives me a chance to spend significant time with my wife, children, and parents. We’ll be home-schooling the kids, in order to let us take time to explore the culture and history of the area. In addition to our trip to the Atlantic coast, the kids will get a chance to see Washington, DC for the first time — and we’ll swing up to Pennsylvania to tour the Gettysburg battlefield and Amish country.
While I’m out there, I would be open to taking on a couple of speaking engagements if my Mid-Atlantic readers think their church or college would be interested… But I’m mostly mentioning all this because I’d welcome prayer:
- For safe travels
- For peace and patience — thrilled as I am to spend so much concentrated time with my family, I know that it will take some time for us all to adjust to such a different rhythm. And while I’ll appreciate the break from teaching college students, teaching six-year olds will be its own challenge!
- For my colleagues — this will also mark the time that I hand off the chairmanship of our department to my colleague AnneMarie Kooistra, just as we’re about to enter an exciting, challenging season. (Stay tuned: before too long, I should be able to announce our newest hire — which has significant implications for a groundbreaking new program that I’ve helped to develop. So as that work continues, pray also that I can release it to the hands of others.)
- For my own vocational discernment
I’m sure I’ll reflect more on this at various points, but… It’s struck me that this sabbatical comes at a significant milestone in my career: next May will mark the fifteenth anniversary of receiving my doctorate… fully one-third of what’s likely to be a forty-five year career. So it’s an ideal point at which to reflect on what the next third of my career will look like.