Weaving the Web: It’s great to be back home

Dear UUCPA folks,

Thank you so much for the wonderful welcome back on Sunday! It had felt quite odd to have the 20th anniversary of my arrival at UUCPA (August 15) slip past while I was on sabbatical, but before I left, Brooke and I had promised that we’d mark it properly when I got back. The timing was lovely: January 4, 2004 was the date of our installation service, when we spoke a covenant to each other and formally marked the beginning of our ministry together, so the first Sunday after my sabbatical worked out as the closest Sunday to that anniversary. The cakes, special letter from the Board, and choral welcome all reminded me what a warm, loving community this is. They were matched only by the smiles on so many faces, the voices raised in singing along with Jim Stevens’s guitar and Veronika’s piano, the hugs from kids (and quite a few adults too). I am one lucky pastor. In an upcoming column, I’ll reflect more on our 20 years together.

Thank you also for the generous gift certificate to Blick’s. It will not surprise you that whenever I walk in there, my fingers start to itch and my brain starts to whir. I will have a lot of fun trying out some new art materials and refilling supplies I used up during these past six months.

From the tile museum, Lisbon

In answer to the most frequently asked question of the past week, I will try to give the condensed version of what I did with my sabbatical; the links lead to some of the longer descriptions that I posted on my blog over the past few months. We didn’t live in another country for six months, the way we did when our daughter was younger; she didn’t want to be away from a whole semester of high school. But that still left us an entire summer to travel around Europe, visiting for various lengths of time in Venice and Trieste in Italy; Llubljana, Slovenia; Salzburg, Austria; Winterthur, Zurich, Bern, and Geneva in Switzerland; Paris and Arles, in France; Barcelona, Madrid, and Córdoba in Spain; and Lisbon, Portugal. Traveling still left plenty of time for reading and study.

An early Ask Isabel column

Many people have asked whether we got back to Mexico at all (where we lived for six months in 2010 and again in 2016). We had hoped to visit Oaxaca at Christmastime, but it turned out the budget didn’t allow for it after the summer in Europe.

The big project I put together while in Europe was an advice column, Ask Isabel: Advice for the Spiritually Perplexed or Vexed (first post here). You can subscribe for free here, or just read a column. Why “Isabel”? Because “Ask Amy” is taken and Isabel is one of my middle names. I wanted to start something I could sustain once I was back to full-time ministry, so I timed myself. If I could write a column in under an hour, I figured I could fit it into my post-sabbatical life. It turned out I could, so I launched the column in September.

Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia, Barcelona

Of course I made a lot of art. I brought just a few materials with me to Europe, but pencils and a small sketchbook were enough for plenty of artistic exploration. I drew lots of the art we saw in museums. At home, I explored oil pastels, which proved a wonderful way to revisit some of the sights that caught at my heart when we traveled, such as the river that runs through Salzburg, and also images from right here in San Francisco. I’ve been working on a papercut that, like other art I’ve done this fall and winter, is part of how I’m processing my grief and thoughts about the war in Gaza.

I also:

Drawing of two oak trees, California

acted on a long-held dream by taking two series of taiko classes,

continued my DMin studies in Theology and the Arts,

read lots and lots,

and even got to a few services via Zoom.

I attended the fall Unitarian Universalist Ministers Association chapter retreat,

and went off on my own retreat in a treehouse–it was lovely.

I became a book in the Human Library,

Drawing of water below the Rheinfall, Switzerland

kept up with my Spanish,

did some anti-human-trafficking volunteering,

and worked with an Executive Function Coach.

If this sounds like a lot of activity, don’t worry, I got plenty of rest also.

Now, please tell me the news about you! I’ll be at church tomorrow and the three Sundays after that, and I’ll be trying to catch up with as many people as possible during coffee hours and Second Sunday Lunches. Thursdays are good days to just drop by, when you’ll mostly find me available in my office–but if you want to make sure that I’m not otherwise engaged, sign up on my Calendly and we’ll have time to talk. And of course, noon on Wednesdays, when I’m in the Sacred Text Reading Group, is an hour I particularly treasure because we share more deeply about our feelings, thoughts, and experiences–join me there anytime.

In love and gratitude,