by Jen Rehbein, Sabbatical Team
When our Lifespan Religious Education Direction, Robin Pugh, let me know that she was planning a sabbatical leave this year, I felt a mix of emotions. First and most important, I was very glad for her. I am proud that our community here at UUCWC takes the well-being and professional growth of our staff so seriously. Our willingness to allow Robin this opportunity to grow personally and professionally says so much to me, about how we live our values.
I also felt nervous. There is so much that Robin does, quietly and without drawing attention, to sustain and nurture our ministry, to our young folks and their families, as well as to all of us who participate in our adult RE offerings. I worried that we would not be able to continue to offer the high-quality programming that we have always offered. I worried that our families and our children would not feel the same level of care and belonging that they do when Robin has her careful eye on all of us. I also worried that whatever structure we put in place, while Robin was away, would cause anxiety and strain for the folks involved.
As a member of the Sabbatical team, I wanted very much to see that none of that happened. I also wanted to see that Robin’s time away would be a time for all of us to learn together and grow as a community.
Since Robin will return to us very soon, in late May, it seems right to reflect a little on how this time has been spent, and what we hope to carry with us from the experience we’ve had.
The Sabbatical team met monthly, for several months before Robin’s departure. We’ve continued to meet and talk frequently, during the past few months. We have also been in close collaboration with members of the staff, the Religious Education committees, and with all of our RE teachers and assistants and helpers, to ensure that things continued to run smoothly. It was a very successful model.
I know I speak for the Sabbatical team members when I say that we are so proud of, and grateful to, everyone who worked so hard and so patiently, even when there were knots to untangle. There were times when everything did not go as perfectly as it would have, with Robin here working so hard. Everyone was flexible and made an effort to communicate, and without that, this would have been impossible.
For myself, I will say that I have learned a few things. First, none of us knows even half of what our beloved Robin does. I was surprised, so many times, when issues arose that none of us had every even considered. We are so fortunate to have Robin, and we will welcome her back so gladly. Nothing was the same, without her here among us.
In addition, I have learned that fellow UUCWC members are most excellent companions on this journey. When we come together in good faith, to make something happen, we are capable of so much more than we realize. I was overjoyed, for instance, to see RE teachers, when encountering everyday challenges in the classroom, begin to reach out and form a network of support for one another. They did not have Robin’s experience to draw on, but they knew that among themselves, they had what was needed to solve the problems. They exchanged ideas and brainstormed solutions and tried new things, and our children’s classroom experiences on Sunday have been greatly enriched as a result.
Finally, and most importantly for me personally, I have experienced the forgiving grace of a supportive community. When I agreed to take a place on the team, I was unsure if I would have the time and attention to give, to completely do my part. As it happens, I was correct, that my personal and work responsibilities left me less time that was optimal, for the team. My fellow team members were kind and gentle. They allowed me to contribute when I could, and took up the slack when I could not, and there are no words for what that has meant to me. Thanks, friends. We are awesome together.