At Trinity Western University, faculty members are encouraged to apply for a sabbatical one year out of every seven. A year released from regular teaching and administrative duties. Does that sound Biblical? Well, indeed it is.
It comes from the sabbatical year in Mosaic Law, the seventh year, when land was not to be tilled and debtors and slaves released. It also pertains to the Sabbath - the day of rest in seven God designed for our well-being.
You don't have to be at a Christian University to take a sabbatical; it is a fairly universal benefit among academic institutions, and some non-academic ones as well. The Sabbatical was first invented at Harvard back in 1880, and other institutions rapidly followed suit.
Of course, professors are quick to point out that it is not just a "year off." Recent studies have shown that sabbaticals have many positive impacts. It's a chance to get into research in new and creative ways. In my last sabbatical, I initiated 10 different publications, including the book New Dimensions in Agroecology.
So now I sit on the edge of a new sabbatical full of promise. Last week I visited a key research site for my sabbatical - the Pacific Rim Campus of the Au Sable Institute of Environmental Studies on Whidbey Island, Washington. I've spent a few happy summer months teaching there in previous years, and this special place has an exciting history in habitat restoration.
Former Au Sable Institute director, Cal De Witt, got a call one day asking "Do you want to buy a prairie?" Ever since then this Christian environmental institute has been stewarding an extremely rare habitat in the wet Pacific Northwest.
I plan to commute down there to the beautiful (and restful) Whidbey Island every month or so to help publish this research which is already published in the landscape itself.
It really is Sabbath research. The prairie itself has never been tilled, but it is plagued by invasive plants and shrubs that the staff at Pacific Rim and faculty from various Christian campuses have been striving to overcome so that native plant life will flourish. Native plant species, such as the rare golden paintbrush have been planted.
Last week I was checking on the golden paintbrush plantings with the restoration team (see below). To our wonder, the golden paintbrush plants were flourishing in certain places where the habitat afforded them a Sabbath rest. Ahhhh...