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The Gift of Sabbatical

The Gift of Sabbatical

My year-long sabbatical recently came to a conclusion. I am ever thankful to Ambrose University for graciously providing the space and time. To be clear, and as I wrote one year ago, a sabbatical is not synonymous with a vacation nor am I now suddenly “returning to work.” A sabbatical is merely a different division of responsibilities that I am compensated for by my employer. Namely, I am tasked to focus on research, while given release from teaching and administrative duties. Nevertheless, I could reflect on many things, but for now a brief overview of some of my activities during the year. Perhaps another time I will write about the social stigma that comes with being on sabbatical, which was an illuminating finding and experience for me … perhaps one that warrants a study in its own right someday.

As I wrote one year ago, I had many plans and ambitions for my sabbatical. I achieved many of them, some I did not, and several other opportunities emerged over the year. Here is a quick snapshot of some of my activities:


I embraced the opportunity for a different pace of life. I watched movies like never before, enjoyed naps from time to time, took up ice hockey again along with other physical exercise, spent countless hours reading and writing under the hot sun in my backyard, and tried to make the most of time with friends and family. I also travelled for a few weeks to Europe (purely vacation) and a few weeks to California (some conferences and some leisure time). There are those who will say that I should have rested more. Perhaps. I feel rested and lament in a way that this rhythm will change in the not too distant future.


  • My central goal was to complete my book, The Meaning of Sunday: The Practice of Belief in a Secular Age. It is finished, marketing pieces are nearly complete, and I look forward to the formal book release on November 1, 2015.

  • I submitted and am now currently working through feedback and revisions on two articles (“Becoming a Religious None: Irreligious Socialization and Disaffiliation” with a colleague; “Kids, You Make the Choice: Religious Socialization among the Less Religious”) and one book chapter (“Sociological Foundations of Christian Morality”). Perhaps ironically, writing and getting an article accepted in an academic journal is more troublesome and difficult for me than the book writing process; much to learn yet.

  • I read and reviewed a couple of books

  • I went through the painstaking process to submit a series of funding applications for new research on flourishing congregations in Canada. Obtaining funding is a bit of a crapshoot, as the numerous rejection letters this year confirmed. Nevertheless, this Fall will be filled with yet more funding applications.


I anticipated a series of conference presentations during sabbatical, but not the volume of conferences that eventually ensued. These experiences were profitable on a number of fronts. I learned from many bright scholars worldwide, in ways that will enhance my research agenda and inform my time in the classroom with students. Perhaps the most surprising and enjoyable aspect to the year was the varied invitations to speak about my research with countless church groups across Canada. It is clear to me that speaking in these settings will become more of the norm moving forward in my career.

  • Gave 8 papers at different academic conferences, including travels to great places such as San Diego, San Francisco, and Toronto.

  • Invited to speak with 8 different church groups across Canada, with several more on the horizon in Summer/Fall 2015


I read 35 books over the year on topics ranging from spiritual formation to sociology of religion to Canadian politics to violence and injustice around the world. There were many more on my list that I did not get to, and hopefully will have the opportunity for this summer. Reading like this reminded me of my days in graduate school – it was great! Some of my best reads include:

New Initiatives

  • I am part of a research group that launched a study on large Protestant churches in Canada (1000+ weekly attenders). Results from this study should begin to trickle out later in Fall 2015.

  • I am part of a research group studying flourishing congregations in Canada. Securing funding continues to be a challenge, though we remain hopeful that we can push forward in earnest with this project in the very near future.

To close, this sabbatical was a pure gift that I am immensely thankful for. As I look ahead I believe that I have new perspectives on life and work and I do look forward to returning to the Ambrose campus – to see colleagues, to engage students, and to help contribute to the evolving mission of Ambrose University. In the meantime, I will carry on with some research initiatives through the summer, enjoy a bit of vacation, and prepare for what awaits this Fall on the Ambrose campus.

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