by Rev. Ben Pascal
Dear PCJH Family,
Sabbatical is a time of renewal and reflection on one’s life. I did a lot of praying and thinking about my daily and weekly rhythms in life and ministry and I have decided to make some changes.
I have a new daily rhythm to my prayer life. As a result of my time with the Benedictine monks at New Camaldoli Hermitage in California, I have been practicing a Protestant version of St. Benedict’s daily office. I use the Presbyterian Book of Daily Prayer to guide and direct my time with God throughout the day.
Ever since the end of April I have strived to pray four times a day: morning, noon, evening, and night. My prayer time consists of reading one or two psalms, a chapter reading from a book in the Old or New Testament, confession, giving thanks, lifting up prayers of intercession, and the Lord’s Prayer. My prayer time is like taking a deep breath in the middle of the day. I inhale God’s Spirit and Scripture and I exhale praise and prayers. This has been a profound spiritual discipline that has allowed me to approach prayer in a similar way as I approach food. I typically eat three or more times a day; why not pray three or more times a day? The Scriptures say that we do not live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of our Heavenly Father.
The Apostle Paul says to pray unceasingly. What does that look like for you? For me it is to come before God throughout the day and into the night to seek God’s presence and word in the midst of all the busyness of daily life. I share this with you not to seek your affirmation, but to challenge you in your own prayer life. What is your daily rhythm with God?
Another big change is that I will be taking Fridays off instead of Mondays. I plan to practice the traditional Jewish Sabbath from sundown on Friday to sundown on Saturday. This also allows me to be in the office on the same days as the rest of the full-time staff and to have two days off in a row to work around the house and to truly rest and play with my family and be ready and refreshed for Sunday morning. I have really missed having two days off in a row these past five years. This has already proven to be a wonderful change for my family, our staff, and me personally.
Preaching & Teaching
In order to truly rest on Fridays and Saturdays will require that I be extra diligent to finish my sermon by Thursday afternoon. In order to prioritize my time and commitments throughout the week I need to change how I spend my time and prioritize my sermon preparation.
Therefore, another big change in my weekly schedule is that I am going to be stepping away from leading the Tuesday women’s bible study and the Thursday men’s lunch. This decision did not come without a lot of prayer, as I knew that this would come as a disappointment to those who regularly attend these bible studies.
As for the future of the Tuesday women’s group and the Thursday men’s lunch, Tammy and I would love to help these groups discern that. Annie Mueller has already offered to be a small group leader and lead a women’s small group on Tuesdays at 12:00pm. Men, perhaps a small group leader will emerge in your midst too? Tammy and I would love to be of assistance in helping decide the future of these groups, should they wish to continue to meet.
I have learned that although change is difficult, it can also be really good and healthy. Jesus taught about the importance of pruning the vine in order to bear more fruit. This is my hope with this change. While I am pruning away my involvement in the women’s and men’s bible studies, I hope that new growth will occur.
A wise person once taught me that if you are going to add something to your weekly schedule you also need to remove things in order to make room. That’s exactly what I am doing. Let me explain:
First, starting September 11th, I would like to invite you to join me or Tammy (depending on who is the preacher that week) to a bible study on Wednesdays from 5:15pm-6:15pm immediately preceding our community dinner. We will study and reflect on the weekly Scripture lessons that I will be preaching on that upcoming Sunday, similar to how I used the women and men’s groups to bounce off ideas for my upcoming Sunday sermon. This has been so valuable. This will also allow more people who work during the day to come engage in God’s word with me after work and before community dinner. Childcare will be provided. Wednesdays at 5:15pm will be more of a classroom setting where I plan to arrive prepared to teach the bible in more in-depth ways. There will still be lots of room for discussion. It is co-ed so anyone can come. You can drop in whenever you are in town. Bring a friend and/or your spouse.
Second, in the interest of being “all in” with our new small group ministry initiative, which is part of our vision for PCJH, Addie and I will be hosting an 8-week small group at our home on Tuesday evenings from 5:30pm to 7:00pm starting September 24th and offering soup, salad, and bread. This group is intergenerational, and perhaps you may like to join our group! Small groups are where people grow deepest in their faith, as many of you are already aware. Sign ups start on Sunday, September 8th.
Third, I hope to be teaching classes on other topics here and there on Sunday mornings or at other times during the week. These topics might include walking through grief, church history, Christian ethics, marriage, parenting, topics pertaining to men, etc. Starting September 8th I will be teaching a class on Sundays at 9:00am entitled Sabbatical Reflections 2.0. It will be a six-week class. I hope you can come!
I hope that these new rhythms to my life and ministry will not only be a blessing to me and my family, but also to the greater good of PCJH. I look forward to the ways in which we will see lives being transformed in Jesus Christ as we practice being a community, rooted in Christ, reaching out in love.
“Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever! Amen.” -Ephesians 3:20-21