13 February 2023
Dear Members of the Diocese of Central Pennsylvania,
In Eastertide of this year, I will take a sabbatical for the purposes of study, rest, and renewal. The tradition of taking time in “a place apart-” is at least two millennia old; Jesus himself withdrew to pray and to be refreshed in the wilderness. In the Hebrew Scriptures (Leviticus 25) we read that for the fields to be renewed for continued fruitfulness, every seven years they lay fallow. We also know from scripture that God rested after a period of creation, on the seventh day. I am well aware of the privilege that a sabbatical signals, and I am grateful for this opportunity to design and experience a time that will be holy, fruitful, and beneficial for me as the spiritual leader of our diocese.
My sabbatical will be a mix of being on the move and staying put… and mostly in the wilderness. I will begin with some weeks of hiking on the Appalachian Trail, and then return to a small hermitage that we have in the woods on our property. The hermitage is a “micro cabin” that is a perfect space for reading, writing, praying, and reflecting. The study that I will do will focus on church structure, systems, and the future of the church; and my writing will include the polishing of some personal essays and reflections on the theme of wilderness.
In my time away, our diocese will be well cared for. The diocesan staff is well equipped to continue their work in my absence, and I have asked The Rev. Canon David Lovelace to serve as an Interim Chief of Staff to assist in the leadership and supervision of the staff. The Rt. Rev. Kevin Nichols, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Bethlehem will be on call for any new disciplinary matters that require the input of a bishop, and the Standing Committee will continue in their role as elected lay and clerical leaders of our diocese. The clergy will be cared for pastorally by the clergy convenors in each of our several regions. The Council of Trustees will have its quarterly meeting in June. Treasurer Tom Roche has agreed to serve as presider at the June meeting.
While I am away, I will not be available for phone calls, meetings, or consultations. Many people travel great distances on their sabbaticals to fully disconnect; being in my hermitage in the back woods will present a temptation for me to check email and return phone calls or to “pop into the office” for a moment; please know that I will do my best to honor the boundary that a sabbatical offers and the space that it creates for rest and renewal. I pray that you will support me in this. While I am hiking, I will be on my own. Many of you have expressed concern in other seasons when I have gone on 5-day backpacking adventures. Please be assured that I am well prepared, aware of my own physical limits, and that I carry a satellite signaling system (Garmin In-Reach) that can call Emergency Responders with the press of a button. Hiking on the Appalachian Trail is challenging, but it is also accessible to towns and services; and, as with many worthy pursuits, there is a certain element of uncertainty and risk-taking that makes for a great adventure!
The dates of my sabbatical will be from April 10, 2023-July 1, 2023 and, again, from July 17- July 31, 2023. I will be in the office for two weeks in mid-July to tend to some scheduled and necessary business. In August, our family will celebrate the marriage of our youngest daughter and I will be away in California for that and our usual family holiday.
On every day – whether on the trail, in the hermitage, or with family, I will offer prayers for our diocese, her people and clergy. I will give thanks to God for the eight years that I have enjoyed as your bishop and look forward to returning, renewed and refreshed for the work ahead of us.
In the Way of Love,
The Rt. Rev. Audrey C. Scanlan
“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach…” Henry David Thoreau, Walden