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The Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina has Guidelines for Clergy Sabbatical Leave.

Download Guidelines for Clergy Sabbatical Leave in a printable format.

In the Lord’s life we see intense activity and contact with people alternating with time apart, time to listen and to be replenished. Clergy sabbatical time is necessary for the ongoing growth, nourishment and renewal of those who are ordained to lead the people of God and the congregations which they serve.


The Diocese of South Carolina is providing guidelines in which congregations are strongly encouraged to join in a covenant with their clergy to provide for periods of a more stimulating and regenerative experience than is possible during short periods of continuing education.

Sabbatical leave is a carefully planned period of time, usually three months after the first seven years service to a congregation, in which the clergy is granted leave away from normal duties in order to spend an extended period of time in study, reflection, and renewal. Sabbatical leave is not a vacation, nor is it only continuing education; it is to promote a priest’s spiritual, intellectual and emotional renewal and growth. Sabbaticals are also a time for the clergy to reflect on his or her life, parish, mission, call and goals for the future, in order to be a more effective minister of the Gospel and shepherd God’s people.


All full-time paid priests who have served a minimum of five (5) years continuously in the parish granting the sabbatical or has served seven (7) full years as a priest in the ordained ministry are eligible for a sabbatical leave. The recommended duration is three (3) months.

Following a sabbatical leave, the cleric is expected to commit to a minimum of one (1) more year of service in their present position.


The costs expected to be covered during the sabbatical include:

• Continued full salary and benefits for the cleric on sabbatical.
• Costs incurred during sabbatical including travel, books, tuition as mutually agreed by parish leadership.
• Cost of supply clergy.

Most of these issues are more easily dealt with when:
• The sabbatical leave is agreed upon when the cleric is called to a parish, and
• Money is escrowed on a regular ongoing basis to cover sabbatical costs.

Planning a Sabbatical:


Not less than a year prior to the sabbatical, the priest should meet with the Senior Warden to discuss issues and questions involving a sabbatical leave. The bishop likewise must be informed of these intentions.

The sabbatical proposal needs to address:
1. The reason for taking sabbatical.
2. A description of the proposed activities during sabbatical, not limited to but including opportunity for retreat and for study.
3. Ministry benefits from the sabbatical.
4. A plan through which the pastoral duties of the clergy will be met during sabbatical including:
a. Appropriate staffing during the sabbatical
b. Concerns about the life of the congregation during the sabbatical
c. Needs of the cleric’s family during sabbatical
5. A financial plan for funding the sabbatical and the possible extra expense of hiring supply clergy
6. A description of the way in which the sabbatical time will be assessed at its conclusion by both the priest and the congregation for its fruitfulness.
7. Six months prior to the sabbatical, the vestry should have a negotiated plan in writing so that appropriate planning may take place. The plan must also be submitted to the Bishop’s office for his information and review as necessary.

During Sabbatical:

• The wardens meet weekly with staff or other clergy as appropriate.
• Communication with the priest on sabbatical will be maintained by him/her and those in charge of the congregation regarding significant pastoral concerns. The communication will take place through eccelesial channels, not through the cleric’s family.
• The wardens communicate regularly and intentionally with the congregation.
• During sabbatical leave, the wardens will remain in office until the return of the priest.

Post Sabbatical:

• A reflection upon the sabbatical is written by the priest and submitted to the vestry.
• The wardens and vestry evaluate the congregation’s experience and submit this report to the priest.


These guidelines are provided as a basic template for incorporating a sabbatical plan into a parish ministry. The following resources may prove helpful in further developing that plan. For further assistance, please contact the Diocesan office.


Book fromThe Alban Institute, “Clergy Renewal- the Alban Guide to Sabbatical Planning”, ISBN#1-56699-223-0, 89 pages.
There are many other book sources available.

Grant & Scholarship Sources for Sabbatical Leave:

The Lilly Endowment, Inc.-National Clergy Renewal Program
2801 N. Meridian St.
Indianapolis, IN 46208

Recognizing the importance and necessity for busy pastors to have an opportunity to take an extended break for renewal and refreshment, Lilly Endowment in 2000 introduced a new competitive grants program. The program awards grants to congregations that offer a program for the renewal of their pastor and, at the same time, give the congregations themselves an opportunity to better themselves as vital places of worship and mission.

In the National Clergy Renewal Program, the Endowment annually provides as many as 120 grants of up to $45,000 each directly to Christian congregations for the support of a renewal program for their pastor. The master of divinity degree is the basic minimal educational requirement to apply for a grant. Deadlines for proposals are generally in May, with announcements of recipients generally made in October.

Louisville Institute
1044 Alta Vista Rd.
Louisville, KY 40205

In late 1990, Lilly Endowment, Inc. (an Indianapolis-based private philanthropic foundation) launched the Louisville Institute, based at the Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary. Created in 1937 by three members of the Lilly family through gifts of stock in their pharmaceutical business, Eli Lilly and Company, the Endowment supports the causes of religion, education, and community development. The Religion Division of Lilly Endowment works with people and institutions of promise to generate knowledge, communicate insights, nurture practices, and renew and sustain institutions that help to make accessible and effective the religious resources upon which a flourishing and humane society depends. As a program of Lilly Endowment, the Louisville Institute builds upon the Endowment’s long-standing support of both leadership education and scholarly research on American religion, including American Catholicism, American Protestantism, the historic African-American churches, and the Hispanic religious experience.
The Sabbatical Grants for Pastoral Leaders Program provides pastoral leaders with sustained periods of time for reflective engagement with their life and work and issues related to contemporary religious leadership. Grants of $10,000 or $15,000 support sabbaticals of eight or twelve weeks respectively. Application Deadline is September 1st.

Other Resources for Planning a Sabbatical:

The Lincoln Theological Institute
University of Sheffield (United Kingdom)
36 Wilkinson St.
Sheffield S10 2GB
Phone: O1142226399
Institute for the study of religion and society. Enquiries are welcome for designated periods of study or sabbaticals. Please apply in writing to the Administrator.

Ripon College Cuddlesdon, Oxford
Contact: Dr. Natalie K. Watson
Development Office
Ripon College Cuddlesdon
Oxford OX449EX
Clergy may stay up to ten weeks and use the library at Oxford.

St. Deiniol’s Residential Library, Hawarden, North Wales, UK
St. Deiniol’s Library, established by the estate of William Gladstone, provides opportunities for sabbaticals, especially involving study or research. For information, contact the Rev. Dr. Peter J. Jagger, Warden and Chief Librarian, at and inquire about arrangements for sabbaticals for clergy.

St. George’s College, Jerusalem
St. George’s is an Anglican institution in East Jerusalem which offers a variety of programs for pastors and laity, varying from 12 to 28 days. For up-to-date information, check their website:

Note: there are many other places where sabbaticals and retreats are possible for clergy, including many monasteries.

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