I am a great fan of Karen Armstrong, but have to disagree with her on the subject of the Archbishop of Canterbury’s proposed sabbatical (Dear archbishop, now is not the time to take a sabbatical, 25 November).
She does not mention that Jesus withdrew for 40 days and 40 nights before beginning his public ministry, frequently took time out by going up into the hills or “to a lonely place” to pray, and was found sleeping in the boat when the disciples thought they were about to perish.
We all need time out, and the poor man has been in post for seven years. That is the normal frequency for a sabbatical. It is a relentless and often thankless task, to which Justin Welby has risen with great energy and commitment. The archbishop, perhaps more than most, needs time to recharge his batteries. Give the guy a break!
Rev Gareth Miller
Area dean of Bicester and Islip
• The concept of sabbath is central to both the Jewish and Christian faiths. We are told that God rested on the seventh day of creation (however we wish to understand that story) and the injunction to keep the sabbath is central to the ten commandments. A key feature of the gospels is Jesus’s repeated practice of withdrawing from the crowds and the disciples to pray and be alone with God. This valuable tradition of sacred rest often stands in direct contrast to the dictates of 21st-century capitalism. This seems to demand that all resources (including human) should be exploited unrelentingly.
Unlike Karen Armstrong, therefore, I wholly applaud Justin Welby’s decision to set an example by taking a well-earned sabbatical. I serve in the Methodist church and we have a long-established tradition of taking sabbaticals every seven years in our ministry. Often they lead to unhelpful accusations of being work-shy or lazy.
Instead, they should be seen as a stand against the culture of busyness and a recognition that the world does not revolve around any one individual. They are a vital time to reconnect with God, and all that truly renews and gives life: prayer, reflection and the study of the scriptures. Instead of criticising the archbishop for taking a sabbatical, we should be arguing for the right for all people to take the rest we need and deserve.
Rev Geoffrey Farrar
Minister, Putney and Roehampton Methodist churches