Al's Sabbatical Letter
From Al Abdulla:
Once upon a time, I was on social media. It was May 30, 2012, and I was about to board a one-way plane to Boston on a 7:55am Virgin America Aircraft with two friends from Reality Santa Barbara.
I posted a pic of the Airbus 319 door with the caption, “Doorway to a whole new life.” It was cheesy, but I was feeling it. CA had been my home for 35 years, and now I was moving my family to the East Coast to plant a church! In a few days, Nina and the girls would join me in our new home, followed by an additional 25+ people with a single mission in mind.
Nina and the girls arrived at midnight on June 1 to our new empty home. After helping us settle in, our friends left, and we were off to the races to birth a church. Three months later, on September 16, we launched our first Sunday gathering.
Six years have passed. Our church has grown rapidly and experienced growing pains. We’re still in the same home, but we have moved church homes 4 times.
Charles Dickens famously penned, “It was the best of times and the worst of times.” I’ve borrowed that line to describe our experience planting a church in Boston. I mean, we’ve experienced tremendous favor as a church and we’ve had a lot of fun! Over the years we have formed relationships that feel more like extended family. And for that, it’s been the best of times.
And even looking back at the worst of times, we see “strength within the sorrow, and beauty in the tears.” The ‘worst of times,’ are some of the most memorable times. It is those times that pave the way towards a deeper maturity and transformation. And for that, we’re also grateful.
But the rigor and weight of planting a church and lead pastoring can slowly deteriorate ones soul. If I’m not careful I become a human doing rather than a human being. And because of that…
Nina and I are taking a sabbatical!
A sabbatical is a Biblically mandated season of rest intended to follow a season of hard work—an invitation to rest, recalibrate and reenter in a way different from the previous 6-7 years. And Nina and I need that this summer.
We need rest. Sabbath rest reminds us that we are made in the image of God who rested from all His work. The tyranny of the urgent slowly becomes a cruel master. Sabbath and Sabbatical rest is meant to reinforce a deep identity that I’m not a human doing—I’m a human being. Church work can seem so spiritual, sometimes yielding a quick return without having to carefully tend to the deep work and desires of the soul. Ministering from a deep well requires times of deep rest.
Sabbatical rest also reminds us that we are human. We are not God. We are limited. We have to step away to show ourselves that we were not the ones making all this happen (it was God the whole time), and that God is still working when we are resting and waiting. I habituate myself towards that by resting on Mondays, but I need an extended time of that now. And I think you, as members of Reality Boston, need to know that as well. This church belongs to Jesus. In my absence, the church is in capable hands.
This sabbatical will also be an opportunity to recalibrate. I will be working with both an executive coach and spiritual director to try and fill in some of the gaps in my life and leadership. Gaps I would like to fill in order to lead this church well into our future. God has done some beautiful things through our church community, and I believe He’s just getting started with us.
Nina and I are so thankful to our eldership, to the staff, to the board, and to you, our church, for the gift of this sabbatical and for sending us in love and prayers as we rest, remember, and learn from the Lord in a time away together.
I have full confidence in our elders (Tim Schiefer, Niel RiCharde) and staff (Morgan Antonell, Nia Durant) to lead well during the summer. Our Leadership Support Team will also offer another layer of support to them throughout the summer to ensure they have what they need to continue leading well. In addition to this support team, Britt Merrick (Reality Carp), Dave Lomas (RSF), and Tim Chaddick (RCL) have also agreed to support the elders in my absence if needed.
Throughout the summer, the pulpit will be filled with friends of our church and family from other Reality churches. The church will be going through 2 series this summer. Speakers include:
· Rashad Clemons
· Bruce Cooke
· Erik Lundeen
· Jason Hood
· Travis Greene (Reality Carp)
· Christian Simas (Reality Stockton)
Here’s how you can pray for Nina, the girls, and me during this sabbatical:
· Intimacy with God and each other
· Rest and restoration physically, mentally, and spiritually
· Fun and connection with our girls
· That we would come back from sabbatical more in love with Christ, each other, and the church
Here’s how we’ll be praying for you:
· Unity in the Spirit
· Spirit filled worship in our new venue
· That you would minister to one another well
· A newfound discovery of calling and mission
· Strength to carry on the mission of Christ in Boston
While Nina and I are really looking forward to this time away, even more we look forward to returning refreshed physically, emotionally, and spiritually in order to lead RCB and advance joy in the city of Boston and beyond with all of you.
Abdulla Sabbatical Plan
June 4 – September 4
Month One: Rest
· Away from Boston for a week of solitude
· Out of town to intentionally connect with Nina and our girls
· No phone, email, social media, or heavy theological reading
· Time of healing, reflection, rejoicing, praying, exploring new places, and having new experiences
Month Two: Recalibration
· Time away with extended family
· Clarify life call and what the next 7-10 years could look like
· 2-3 Coaching calls
Month Three: Re-entry
· Regular coaching calls
· Work with a spiritual director
· Meet with a few mentors and pastors I admire
· Meet with RCB elders, Staff and Leadership Support Team
· Start to plan the fall sermon series