Bishop Stewart’s 2016 Sabbatical Interview

As he begins his 20th year of ministry at Resurrection this fall, our beloved senior pastor, Bishop Stewart, will be taking a sabbatical this summer with Katherine and their children from May 2–August 14. Below, he answers questions about their travels, how he plans to limit his reading list, and how excited he is to return after a time of rest.

1. How do sabbaticals work at Resurrection?

First, as many of you know, sabbath is an integral part of the Resurrection identity. In fact, in 2014, we took an entire Sabbath Year as a church to spend more time in prayer and waiting on the Lord. We believe that sabbath rest equips us to worship the Lord and serve others from a place of strength and peace. Sabbath also reminds us that it is the Lord who gives the growth, and that ministry is not something that we do in our own power.

Our goal in developing a sabbatical policy for our staff was to reflect this deeply biblical principle of sabbath rest. Scripture depicts cycles of sabbath rest: weekly, monthly and yearly patterns are all of vital importance to the Christian life.

And so in accordance with the seven-year pattern of sabbath found in Scripture (Lev. 25), full-time staff at Resurrection have the opportunity to take a sabbatical after seven years of service.

2. Why this summer?

I served Resurrection for 13 years without taking a sabbatical. After that happened, the Vestry agreed that I could take three consecutive summers of short sabbatical time, and then take a longer sabbatical in 2013. However, 2013 was the year when I was chosen bishop, and so we had to postpone it. The ensuing combination of diocesan responsibilities and difficult timing meant that my longer sabbatical had to be delayed until this summer, 2016.

3. Why is this sabbatical important for you, and for the Ruch family?

Our family is deeply thankful that after 25 years of full-time ministry, and right before starting our 20th year of ministry at Resurrection, we have this opportunity for extended family rest and a season of focused prayer.

We have always done ministry as a family, and so we live the joys
and the pressures together. As important as this sabbatical is for me as a pastor, it is also vital for Katherine and the children to have time away from the challenges and pressures of local church ministry.

4. We’re going to miss you! How are you able to be gone so long?

It’s been a real challenge for me to get to a place where I feel the freedom to do this. But I feel the freedom to do so for a few reasons. First, I am confident in our leadership team. It will be wonderful for Resurrection to see that there are incredible leaders who are in place to serve the church.

Second, I feel that our new vision of equipping everyone means that Resurrection is being called into a new sense of responsibility and engagement with the ministry of the church. Resurrection is in a really healthy place, and this is an opportunity for growth. You all are ready for this. As the people of God, you are ready to be the body of Christ, and Katherine and I are not essential to that. I trust all of you with the work of equipping everyone for transformation, and I can’t wait to return and see how the Lord has worked through you.

5. What will you be doing while you are on sabbatical?

I have four main goals for my sabbatical.

  • Prayer: I will be more deeply exploring the Ignatian spiritual exercises that Deacon Val has been teaching here at Resurrection, and I am excited to incorporate the exercises into my daily prayer life. Overall, I am just very excited about having more time to spend in prayer with the Lord.
  • Play: I am so looking forward to extended opportunities to be together as a family and to spending time in nature playing and exploring.
  • Read: I was a lit major in college, and I anticipate spending long hours reading over my sabbatical. My primary focus will be novels, plays, and poetry. However, I probably won’t be able to resist biographies, American history, and some leadership books.
  • Write and Study: During this time, Katherine and I will be developing a series on personhood and sexuality for the fall. Katherine and I would also love to do some writing together, if time and energy permit.
  • 6. Where will you be during these weeks away?

    We will be in the area for the first three weeks of May. We will then leave as a family for Brazil on May 25. I will be in Brazil until August 2, and Katherine and the children return August 8.

    As many of you may know, Katherine was raised in Brazil. This country is deeply important to her and us, and so we are excited for the children to experience this place in an extended way.

    We will be spending our first month there in São Paulo, staying with Katherine’s family. Her parents are longtime missionaries there. During the second month, we will be hosted by Brazilian Bishop Miguel Uchoa in Recife. I am excited to continue building a global partnership with our Brazilian brothers and sisters as I connect with the Anglican church there.

    7. We’re really excited for you and the family to have this time together. Is there anything else you would like to share with us?

    I am really thankful to the Vestry of Resurrection and the Bishop’s Council of the diocese for the funding they are providing to make this possible. Also, while I am looking forward to rest, I am extremely excited about coming back in the fall and serving and leading the vision of equipping everyone for transformation.

    If there’s anything else you want to know, please contact me at I would be happy to answer any questions you may have.

    Bishop Stewart’s last Sunday before his sabbatical will be May 1. We will be praying for him, Katherine, and the children before they embark on their time of rest. We are so excited to send out the Ruch family, and we can’t wait until they return this fall rested, rejuvenated, and ready for their 20th year of ministry.

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