Sabbatical & Renewal Plans

This message went out to the parish in April 2018. 

Dear Friends, 

A year ago, our parish submitted our application for a Clergy Renewal Grant – a program that would provide generous funding for Rev. Miranda’s upcoming sabbatical, as well as supporting the church’s ongoing ministry and a congregational renewal project during her absence. Last August, we got a thick envelope in the mail from the Christian Theological Seminary in Indianapolis, which administers the sabbatical grant program. We got the grant! 

We’ve taken our time, as a Vestry and in dialog with our Rector, to work out the timing of all this, because we needed to give the capital campaign our full attention this past winter. But even as the capital campaign is coming to fulfillment, other plans have been taking shape and we now feel ready to celebrate the shared opportunity that this grant provides for all of us. Rev. Miranda and her family are going to be away on sabbatical from August 1 through the end of October – a total of three months – to rest and spend time together, including some family travel. Miranda will be using some of her sabbatical time to learn how other congregations around the country are including children in worship, to bring ideas back to St. Dunstan’s to help us worship together as an all-ages community of faith. While she is on sabbatical, the parish will undertake its own renewal project: building relationships across age groups within the congregation.

Our plans for liturgical leadership, administrative oversight and pastoral care are really taking shape. The Rev. Jonathan Melton, chaplain of St. Francis House Episcopal Campus Ministry and a friend of our parish, plans to be at St. Dunstan’s on Sunday mornings to preach and celebrate during Rev. Miranda’s absence over those months. We are also developing a leadership team of lay ministry leaders, associate clergy, and staff, to make sure core responsibilities and tasks are covered for that season.

2018 is certainly shaping up to be an eventful year for St. Dunstan’s. The capital campaign will allow us to change our physical spaces, but will also enliven us and bring us closer in the process.  Rev. Miranda will begin her exploratory journey soon after we wrap up our fundraising, and as we begin preparing for renovations to get underway. We as your Vestry take confidence from the strength and unity of our parish leadership, and from how well things are falling into place. We believe our timing is right on all fronts. We are pleased to be able to offer Rev. Miranda some time away to rest, play, and learn with her family, and we are excited by her pending sabbatical project; and we are eager to undertake as a parish our own renewal project during that time. 

Read on for some Frequently Asked Questions. If you find that you have additional questions that aren’t addressed here, please talk with one of the Wardens or Vestry members.

In peace,

Shirley Laedlein, Senior Warden

Mary Rowe and Mike Miller, representing the Vestry 

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a clergy sabbatical? 

Clergy in many mainline denominations, including the Episcopal Church, receive periodic sabbatical time as part of their standard employment benefits. Generally, a sabbatical falls between a clergyperson’s fifth and eighth year serving a parish. A sabbatical is usually 2 – 4 months long. The time away is intended for rest and refreshment, additional time with God and loved ones, and in some cases travel or a project of some sort. The clergyperson is paid their regular salary during the sabbatical. Various grant programs can help make travel, special training or other opportunities possible for clergy on sabbatical. 

How will this intersect with the capital campaign? 

Not much, as far as we can project from here. We plan to finish gathering pledges to the campaign by the end of June. After that, there will be a season when we’re sorting out finances and logistics before any big changes start to happen. It’s possible some parts of the renovation project will get underway during Rev. Miranda’s absence, but we have a lot of confidence that we’ll have leadership in place who can oversee all that effectively. [Update, July 2018: Most likely, during Miranda’s absence, we’ll simply be doing the necessary groundwork for moving ahead – sorting out finances and construction loans, interviewing general contractors and choosing a firm to work with, and further developing plans and timelines.]

Who’s in charge while Rev. Miranda is away?

Many aspects of the life of our congregation will roll along as they always do, because staff or committed lay volunteers handle them anyway. We are working on organizing a leadership team, and making sure the things Miranda usually does are accounted for, one way or another. We’ll share more details as August gets closer. If you’re involved with a ministry at St. Dunstan’s and feel that you could step up and handle a little more for a couple of months, we’d love to know that! Talk to Rev. Miranda or to a member of our Vestry. 

Rev. Miranda is going to come back, right?

Here is a personal comment from Rev. Miranda:  “Yes, I’m going to come back.  I’ve said this before, but: I always thought we had a good shot at receiving a Clergy Renewal Grant, because they state that the best candidates are churches where there’s a strong, trusting partnership between parish and clergy. We have that. It’ll be hard to be away — I will miss you, each and all — but it also gives me joy to know that the faithful, creative, committed and caring people of St. Dunstan’s will be churching along together even while I’m away.” 

Can you say more about the congregational renewal project?

In the grant application, we laid out plans to use this time (and the grant funds) to focus on cultivating intergenerational friendships within the parish. We will plan a series of events and opportunities that will help our age-diverse church learn each other’s names and discover where our experiences and interests overlap across age groups. 

Our Vacation Bible School (August 5 – 9, 5:30 – 7:30) will be intentionally intergenerational this year — mark your calendars and watch for more information! And we have lots of other ideas, including a parish-wide art show and poetry reading; a Hobby Day where people can teach hobbies like knitting, wood carving, or cooking; cross-generational pen pals; a museum outing; a camping trip; an all-ages book discussion; and kids and parents visiting elders to help with chores and build friendships; an all-ages Parish Tea Party or other shared meals. 

If this sounds like fun to you and you’ve got ideas or time to share, talk to Rev. Miranda, Christian Formation chair Sharon Henes, or a vestry member! We will be gathering interested folk soon to start getting more concrete with these plans. 

What’s Rev. Miranda’s project? 

In addition to rest, reflection, and play, Rev. Miranda will also be gathering ideas for welcoming and supporting kids’ participation in liturgy. Here are a couple of key paragraphs from the grant application: 

“Welcoming and including children into the liturgical life of the church has become a core passion of my ordained ministry and, over the course of my six years at St Dunstan’s, a charism (spiritual gift) of our parish.  As both a pastor and a parent, I find it rewarding and exciting to see the children of my church comfortable, engaged, and committed. I take seriously my responsibility for the faith development of St. Dunstan’s whole squirmy, awkward-question-asking, beloved pack of children. This commitment to responsibility and engagement is broadly shared in the congregation. Together, the people of St. Dunstan’s have made our worship space hospitable to children, cultivated a parish culture that is accepting of kids’ more active approach to liturgical presence, and developed a monthly ‘All Ages’ pattern of worship that centers children as participants and leaders. We’re seeing a dramatic rise in the number of kids among us, and we believe we can do more. Both members and guests have observed that our welcome towards children is distinctive and special. Newer members have cited our child-friendliness as a reason for joining the church. Long-time members have welcomed the demographic shift in the congregation. We’re already a liturgically flexible parish by Episcopalian standards, worshipping with an eclectic mix of music, seasonal prayers and holy playfulness. We’re in a strong position to grow into liturgy that fully includes people of all ages. 

“For my sabbatical, I want to further develop my approach to including children in the worship of my Episcopal parish, by visiting four churches that are integrating children into worship in transformative, life-giving ways.  I will use these site visits, supported by reading and interviews, to both glean new ideas and to develop and articulate a fuller sense of the possibilities and purpose of including children in the weekly worship of a congregation. On our travels, my family will join me as participant observers and partners in the project. While I’m away, my parish will undertake a renewal project of their own: a season of activities focused on deepening cross-generational friendships within the parish. Their work will dovetail with my project to help us grow further as a meaningfully and joyfully age-diverse worshipping community.”

Where does this grant come from? 

Here’s a little more about this particular grant program: 

St. Dunstan’s was one of 146 congregations from across the United States that was selected to participate in this competitive grant program, which is funded by Lilly Endowment Inc. and administered by Christian Theological Seminary in Indianapolis. Established in 2000 by an Endowment, the program’s grants allow Christian congregations to support their pastors with the gift of extended time away from their ministerial duties and responsibilities. Ministers whose congregations are awarded the grants use their time away from the demands of daily ministry to engage in reflection and renewal. The approach respects the “Sabbath time” concept, offering ministers a carefully considered respite that may include travel, study, rest, immersive arts and cultural experiences, and prayer. 

You can read more about this grant program here:


6205 University Ave., Madison WI

St. Dunstan's Episcopal Church