Weddings, funerals and meetings. Preaching at four services every week and prepping for them for 15-20 hours at a time.
Counseling parishioners in crisis and visiting the sick. Leading a congregation that numbers about a thousand members,from small groups to the staff and lay leaders.
This is the life of the Rev. Jeff Huber, the senior pastor at First United Methodist Church of Durango. It's a life
that is rewarding, but tiring as well.
The Methodist Church recommends pastors take a sabbatical every seven years or so to refresh and renew their spirit.
But in 22 years of ministry, Huber has never done so, in part because he never had a long-term congregation before
coming to Durango. That is going to change in 2010, when he will enjoy an almost four-month leave during the summer
under a grant from the Lilly Endowment Inc.
"The National Clergy Renewal Program gives pastors the gift of being able to live in sabbath time, to honor that
moment as God-given," said Craig Dykstra, endowment senior vice president for religion. "Many clergy renewal
participants have reported to the endowment that they found their vision for ministry enlarged when they returned, and that their call and commitment were renewed."
Three people from the church wrote the grant, which requires a plan for both the church and for the pastor. Dykstra
said many congregations grow in their leadership and create an environment for their returning pastor that is at a
more sustainable pace.
"Before we applied for the grant, we did a big survey of the congregation," Huber said. "And everyone was very
supportive, saying how great this will be for Jeff and his family."
Out of the $50,000 grant, $15,000 will go to taking care of the church during his renewal leave. The Rev. Steve
Martyn, a seminary professor, will take over the leadership. He's planning to preach a series on the Sermon of the
"That was my biggest concern, making sure the church is taken care of," Huber said. "A lot of churches wouldn't let
their pastor be away for so long."
Another part of the grant is designed to include his family. Huber and his wife, Tami Bradshaw, adopted two children
from the Ukraine a few years ago. Thomas and Viktoria will get to see more of their birth country during a family
trip to the region. Huber and Bradshaw also will attend a marriage retreat during the leave.
Rest and renewal are the heart of the grant, and the Huber/ Bradshaw clan is also planning a trip to North Carolina
to enjoy the ocean. While there, Huber will spend time at a church that has an outreach ministry similar to one the
Durango church is planning in Grandview.
In the most powerful religious part of the leave, he will be joining a group of ministers in a journey following the
footsteps of the Apostle Paul. Rome, Ephesus and Corinth will be just a few of the stops.
"It's a tour just for pastors who want to make a spiritual pilgrimage," he said. "There's time for prayer and
learning, not just being a tourist."
The other clergy grants are as diverse as the ministers who applied for them. Spanish-language immersion courses, gardening and musical studies are on several agendas. Others are planning to attend the Passion Play in Oberammergau, Germany, or walk the pilgrimage known as the Camino de Santiago de Compostela (the way of St. James) in northern
And when Huber returns? There's money in the grant for a welcome-back party with his congregation.