Wednesday, September 11, 2013

A Personal Message from Bishop Barry Clarke: Sabbath Leave – The Winter of My Discontent

Montreal Bishop Barry Clarke, left on a “Sabbath leave” in March, and returned to his regular duties at the beginning of August.

I went on a Sabbath leave in March of this year, because I was physically, emotionally and spiritually exhausted. The demands of the last number of years as Bishop and as caregiver to Leslie caught up with me. I knew I would be of little value to myself or to the Diocese without taking this Sabbath time off. I was restless, irritable and discontent. I am convinced that this Sabbath was God’s intervention into my life, to take time for my own self-care and wellness. This is an important ministry to ourselves which we often ignore. As I sat in the chapel of the Southdown Institute, in Aurora, Ontario, I was focused on the crucifix and I heard the words of Jesus say to me... “Come to me, all you that worry and are carrying heavy burdens and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28)

The invitation I heard from Jesus inspired and challenged me for the next twenty weeks on a journey of wellness of body, mind, soul and spirit. My Spiritual Director invited me to take this time away from the daily routines of my life and see it as a wilderness time, not looking back to my Egypt or looking ahead to my Promised Land. As painful as it is staying in the wilderness experience because of fear, sadness and isolation, the benefits were fruitful.

I had to admit to myself that depression is real, it is frightening and it is paralyzing. Depression spoke to me of the deep and painful sadness I was living with in my life. It speaks of the fear, the isolation and the darkness that was so overwhelming. I am filled with gratitude for the community of professionals I was associated with, who journeyed with me.

Parker Palmer, in his book, “Let Your Life Speak”, describes de - pression: “I could feel nothing except the burden of my own life and the exhaustion, the apparent futility of trying to sustain it”. In spite of all the challenges of facing my reality at that moment, I was assured of God’s providential care for me.

Nature and the unfolding of spring from winter, creates newness all around. For me, in my many daily walks outside on the wonderful trails, I appreciated the Canada Geese flying overhead in formation. I saw this as a symbol of God reminding me of the importance of community to support, listen and journey alongside me. I am home now and re-entering into ministry. I am deeply grateful to you, the clergy, laity, and Synod office staff for your support, prayers and love during this Sabbath leave and the many and various ways in which you faithfully embark in God’s Mission in the church and the world.

In the Peace and Love of Christ,


Source: Montreal Anglican

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