That’s a Wrap!

Campus Pastor Ben was on Sabbatical from May 1st through July 31st during the summer of 2019. He occasionally posted blog reflections of that time right here

I have been deeply grateful for a time of sabbatical rest and rejuvenation after five years of creating 3rd Way Collective. As this three-month experience began, I had three goals – rest, reflection, and rejuvenation. I think all three have been accomplished, even though this time went much faster than I could have imagined. I know that any good experience goes by much too quickly, and it is natural to wish that the time would slow down. 

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I found it extremely meaningful to slow down enough to reflect on the first five years of 3rd Way Collective. I ended up writing more than 20 blog posts this summer, many of which are focused on the first five years of this unique campus ministry. I also attended Mennonite Church USA’s annual convention where I presented a seminar on our first five years. It was wonderful to hear the questions and comments from folks in attendance, and to be reminded that there are people beyond State College, watching us with anticipation, cheering us on from a distance, and longing for something similar in their own context. My family and I also enjoyed a five week trip through New England and Eastern Canada. This intentional time together was an incredible gift, and a chance for us to reflect as a family on our collective calling to this work. 

I found significant relief in disconnecting from the political and issue-based noise of our national and social media. This experience showed me that I had been subconsciously carrying something significant, and has made me pause to wonder if there is a healthier way to be aware and attentive to what is happening at the national level. 

I leaned in to many of my favorite things – food, reading, bike rides, baseball games, breweries, disc golf – and found a lot of joy in exploring these things in other areas outside of Pennsylvania. Notable books include books written by people I have met before – Karen Weiss’ book, Fierce Grace, was such a gift during this time, as was Austen Hartke’s incredible book, Transforming

I thought it would be fun to note some details from this time of sabbatical…

  • 3 months (May 1 through July 31, 2019)
  • 25 written blog posts
  • More than 3000 miles of car travel 
  • 5 beaches and many miles of coastline
  • 300 mile bike trip to Washington DC
  • 80 mile bike ride to Altoona PA and back
  • 4 baseball games at four different ballparks (Jays, Royals, Altoona Curve, SC Spikes)
  • One flight to Kansas City
  • 9 USA states visited (plus two more if flight layovers are included)
  • 5 Canadian provinces visited
  • Stayed in 17 different beds besides my own
  • A long weekend camping trip with friends
  • Played 23 rounds of disc golf, adding 5 new disc golf courses to list of played
  • Visited 14 different breweries 
  • 8 ice cream adventures (Milk Bar the Polar Star in Quebec was our fav)
  • Read 27 books (including 6 graphic novels, and re-reading the first 4 Harry Potter books)
  • Delicious regional food ranging from BBQ in Kansas City to lobster rolls on the coast
  • Numerous opportunities to connect and catch up with old friends, family members and colleagues

It also has become quite clear, through conversations with many campus ministry colleagues, how rare sabbatical time is for people in this field. Many congregations who employ a campus professional categorize that role as a “staff person.” Typically this means they are paid less, are not ordained or licensed for ministry, and don’t receive typical clergy benefits like sabbatical time. I have deep gratitude for our regional Mennonite conference for their willingness to ordain me for this kind of ministry, and to University Mennonite Church for understanding this role to be a specific kind of pastoral ministry. 

Part way through our trip we were sitting on a beach and a group of college students sat down close to us. I shared with my wife Meredith that I had a desire to go over and start chatting with them, learning about their lives and journey. She quickly remarked how notable it was that in my downtime I still long to be with this particular age group. It was just one of many small signs that I enjoy what I do, and feel called to continue this work. 

I’m excited to get back to work, shaping all that this fall will include, bringing faith-based peace and social justice to the Penn State and State College community!

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One Reply to “That’s a Wrap!”

  1. Nice report, Ben. Sounds terrific – and all it should have been. Glad to know it was such a rejuvenating time for you and the fam. Blessings for the coming year!

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