(Sabbatical starts December 25, 2019 and ends May 3, 2020)
As I begin my 6th year of ministry with you, I am amazed at how time, trust and open hearts has allowed us to grow together. In preparation for my sabbatical this winter, I catch myself missing my community already. And, it will be good for me to step out of the day-to-day and weekly discipline required of ministry and a robust congregation. I have forgotten, if I have ever learned, how to have a slower and more deliberate pace. I am grateful to each of you for the gift of sabbatical, which is an opportunity to discover such things, but also a way to return to you in health and rejuvenation.
During the Sabbatical, you will certainly be in good hands – as you will tend to each other, like you already do so well. You will also have the care and continuity of Rev. Sue Goodwin, whose responsibilities will be redirected during those four months toward Worship and Pastoral Care. I have no doubt that Sunday mornings will be as rich as ever. On the one Sunday per month when Rev. Sue is not in the pulpit, a local Unitarian Universalist colleague will be preaching or our very own Director of Music Ministry, Caryl Tipton. Just like me, Rev. Sue will have the support of our Pastoral Caring Ministry, as well as area UU colleagues if ever needed. Continue to welcome her; this will be another time of discovery and learning for everyone. Be open to her ministry.
As Rev. Sue will continue in her part-time role (20 hours), please remember there are others who are splitting up my regular responsibilities, too. Your Sabbatical Team includes Susan Colket, one of the co-chairs of Right Relations; Scott Cullen, co-chair for Worship Associates; Marilyn Cichowski, long time member and leader; Scott Drew, on behalf of Personnel; Susan Irgang, as our Staff representative; and Jeff Lang, a Board of Trustees member at large. If there is a question about the day-to-day operations of the church, a big project, a concern – or a celebration! – this team should be your first point of communication.
The Board will also be in intentional conversation with the ministry teams I oversee or collaborate with (Worship, Pastoral Care, Membership, Right Relations and the like). They will also be holding, as they already do, regular Board Chats during Middle Hour. Stop in and say “hi!” Remember to tend to them during this time, too.
During my Sabbatical I will mostly be staying local but, as you know, not in communication with the congregation. I will be playing my violin for the first time in more than a decade, taking Spanish classes, studying stillness, reading, reading, reading, and attending preaching conferences as a parishioner, and management classes as a learner. Tara and I hope to take the kids to Nebraska for the first time, to where Tara was raised, and spread the ashes of her mother on their old running trail.
In other words, I am going to be rediscovering languages, practices, and ways of being that I used to know. I am going to replenish my well of wisdom sources so that I can bring them back to you. I am going to explore being a person whose identity exists outside of ministry and ministering.
As a colleague of mine wrote recently in preparation for her sabbatical:
“I’m looking forward to a break from feeling adored and despised, less paranoid and obsessive about why people come and go, and less like an entire organization rests on my mood, my theology, my ideology, my memory, and my personality. I want to be taken off the very high pedestal and the very high cross, and put back on the ground where I have always belonged, with the humans. I want to be right-sized. I also want to know how to keep this “sabbatical me” when I return to the work of my beloved ministry, and my beloved people.”
It is time for me to replenish my spiritual well; it is the only way to authentically ask you to work on doing the same. It is the only way to return to the life of ministry with joy. I hope that while I embark on this theme of rediscovery you will take up that theme, too – personally and as a congregation. And when we return to one another in May, we can greet each other with the joyful re-commitment that our ministry together has only just begun.
Blessings to you and yours,