By the Revd Greg Syler
I loved spending nearly three weeks of my ministry sabbatical at Sarum College earlier this year.
Not only did I rest, and rest well in the comfortable care of the Sarum College staff, I experienced very significant renewal and fresh insights.
Having mentoring sessions with Canon James Woodward was such a gift and touch-point for my experience. James is incredibly erudite and has a masterful knowledge of matters theological, spiritual, and practical — indeed, his academic research and his thinking so quickly finds the common points among those seemingly disparate matters, practical and theological.
Initially, James encouraged me with helpful, engaging questions — the kind of downright good conversation that helped me arrive quickly at the very heart of what my sabbatical was about or, rather, what God was already doing in my life and ministry (and which I needed to pay closer attention to!). Throughout our time together, James had a ready ear, quick wit, and plenty of good reading material to recommend.
Sarum College offers a great deal of additional amenities for deep immersion and sabbatical refreshment. As a sabbatical student, I had borrowing privileges in the well-stocked College library whose attentive staff are welcoming and helpful.
The hospitality staff are incredibly warm and kind, and they made my stay feel much like being at home. What a joy to know that there was such a capable and generous staff who genuinely feel called to the ministry of hospitality and care!
Living in the Cathedral Close in Salisbury is its own gift, and words fail to describe how wonderful it is to live across the lawn from one of the world’s great Cathedrals — such an easy jaunt to regular times of prayer, mid-day Holy Eucharist and daily Evensong chief among those soul-centering offerings. The College’s kitchen staff prepare delicious, fresh food in the Refectory. Breakfast is served daily and over the course of my stay I also enjoyed frequent lunch and supper offerings (even as those are subject to the schedule of other groups).
Lastly, I should note that Sarum College is very much a working center of education and formation — so many groups of clergy, lay leaders, community members, and ordinands regularly crossed the doors for various events, classes, workshops and retreats. Those encounters, and Sarum College’s academic and hospitality staff who develop and help lead such events, provided rich conversation and much mutual sharing over meals and pop-up discussions in the common areas.
I great enjoyed my time at Sarum College, and I cannot wait to return!
The Revd Greg Syler is Rector of Ascension & St. George’s, Resurrection Parish in the Episcopal Diocese of Washington, DC USA. He lives with his family in St. Mary’s County, Maryland and writes a blog, From the Rectory Porch. He spent part of his ministry sabbatical at Sarum College in spring 2022.