Rustin and Marcola were in their mid-twenties when they joined a church-planting team in the spring of 2001. Rustin was a traveling musician and Marcola was a 2nd grade teacher. They were drawn to this group of people because of their gracious embrace, and because of a chance to contribute their gifts to the needs of a new community, Rustin as a worship leader and Marcola as a children’s director.
After five years of typical church-planting struggles, the church asked Rustin to become the pastor. They waited until their second child was born before saying yes. Rustin became the pastor on the fifth anniversary of the church, October 2006.
In the next few years, Vox tripled in size. It was soon unmanageable for Rustin alone, and the church tried out several staff additions to deal with the changes. By 2013, Rustin felt like he had barely survived the wild ride when he began a three month sabbatical. His boys, then 8 and 6 years old, asked him for years after, “Dad, when do you get another sabbatical?” It was a vital time of connection and renewal for the entire Smith family.
Rustin tapped his newly recovered energy to lead Vox through complexities of differing agendas and to acquire a permanent home base. In 2014, Vox moved into 622 2nd Street and into a long stretch of growth and stability.
In 2016, he encountered the beginning of a season of personal challenges. A close family member in crisis came to live with the Smith family for two years. In 2018, his father died. Other significant family changes emerged. The political landscape soured and pressed the church. And long-time church friends left, which was discouraging. Meanwhile, Rustin’s mother and brother, and Marcola’s parents moved nearby, which was a blessing!
Rustin was looking forward to his second sabbatical in 2020. However, just two months before it was set to begin, the pandemic arrived. So he put the sabbatical on hold and redoubled his efforts to serve Vox.
Now in 2022, Vox is emerging from the pandemic. New energy is palpable. The Council and Staff are in a healthy place. People are connecting and growing. We have increased confidence in the gritty, deep people who have stayed faithful through the challenge of the pandemic. Rustin very much desires to continue his “long obedience in the same direction” by leading Vox into the future.
This fall, Rustin’s oldest son will be a high school senior. Rustin looks at this as his chance to respond to his boys’ question, “Dad, when do you get another sabbatical?” with the answer, “The time has come.”
“Come to me…and I will give you rest.” - Jesus, Mt. 11:28 Sabbatical, the word, comes from sabbath, which means rest. Sabbatical is a period of leave granted to a pastor for the purpose of vocational renewal. Our practice at Vox is to grant a three-month sabbatical to our full-time staff every seven years. This practice is rooted in the patterns of rest established by God:
God rested on the seventh day (Genesis 2:1-3).
God instructed his people to follow this creation pattern. (Exodus 16:26; 20:9-10; 23:12; 31:15; 34:21; 35:2; Leviticus 23:3; Deuteronomy 5:13).
The purpose of the sabbatical in a church context is to provide an opportunity to rest (and establish new habits of rest), to reflect and write, or to travel. Sabbatical is intended to re-energize the pastor and renew his passion for his vocation.
Sabbatical is not only a time of renewal for the pastor, it is also renewal for the congregation. It is a season to renew our commitment, and to learn to ‘be the church’ by caring for one another and taking more active ownership of the ministries of the church.
The Vox Council approved Rustin’s proposal for Sabbatical that includes specific areas of renewal:
1. Family Renewal - A pastor’s family embraces a unique life of odd hours and complex relational challenges. Part of Sabbatical is for the healing and growing of bonds with family and friends: a family trip, time for recovery and for friendships.
2. Home Renewal - Much of the early ministry of Vox happened in and from the Smith home they moved into twenty years ago. The challenges of the past few years have made it hard to keep that up. Some of Sabbatical will be time spent returning their home to a place fit for more hospitality.
3. Soul Renewal - Rustin will be seeking solitude as well as time with trusted mentors and peers for counsel to re-inspire his vocational calling, and to cultivate the pastoral craft. This will also be a time to tend to creative gifts of writing and music, as well as caring for habits of physical health.
And in parallel, Vox will be working on a fourth area:
4. Congregation Renewal - Rustin’s absence will make space for more of us to step up to the plate. We hope to find refreshening as we worship, work, and pray through this season of restoration. We will have a special focus on relationships, hosting spaces for connection, and we will cap this season of renewal with a church family weekend at Shalom Retreat Center at the end of September.
We are entering this season under a covenant in which Rustin will pledge to us that he will take this charge for rest seriously and engage these tasks, and in which we (Vox) will commit to being faithful during his absence, and here to welcome his return.
Following is a general framework and time blocks for sabbatical activity. The reality will likely be more fluid and overlapping, but this schedule honors a focus on family, home, and soul.
As a church lead by the Council and Staff we are excited for this season, not only for the Smith family but for the Vox family as well!
Pray for Vox, as we continue to prepare for the sabbatical.
Pray for Rustin, Marcola, Rock and Jet as the Lord prepares their hearts and minds for this season.
Contact Troy Lakey (email@example.com), Council Chair and/or Jonathan Klee (firstname.lastname@example.org), Business Manager if you have questions or want to step up and serve more.
Join us as we work to raise $10,000 above the church budget to cover the financial costs of the sabbatical.
The Vox Council & Staff