It’s hard to believe, but I have been the parish minister here for over twelve years, and it’s been over five years since I returned from my first sabbatical. Our ministers, like those of most UU congregations, accumulate a month of paid sabbatical leave for every year, and are expected
to take it when 4-6 months have accumulated. I will therefore be going on sabbatical from July 1 – December 31, 2016. Because I will not have taken any of my annual study time before then, I will also be away from church beginning in early June, though I will see those of you who come to General Assembly in Columbus, Ohio, in late June. I am so grateful for this time, which helps me replenish my sources of inspiration and do some of the work that relates to ministry but is hard to fit in to the regular schedule of a parish minister at a busy congregation.
What we did in 2010 worked well for the congregation, so the Board has chosen to repeat it: we will hire a half-time sabbatical minister for that July-December period, whose principal responsibilities will be to preach twice per month and anchor pastoral care. This minister will meet with the Caring Network, respond to pastoral emergencies along with Dan, and conduct rites of passage. I’ll book members and guests for all the other Sundays before I depart, and Sally Ahnger will be Acting Head of Staff during the sabbatical. A search committee consisting of me, Castor Fu of the Committee on Ministry, and a Board appointee will send out a job description shortly. We will conduct interviews in January and February, with the goal of proposing a sabbatical minister to the Board for a vote by March.
During my sabbatical in 2010, I and my family lived in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, for six months, where I improved my Spanish and fo- cused on re-kindling an art practice that had lain largely dormant for 20 years, which meant facing some fears. I and the congregation also found that, having conquered a paralyzing fear in one part of my life, I returned a more fearless leader and passionate preacher.
It was such a fulfilling experience that we’re doing it again, this time planning to live in the city of Oaxaca. Joy will again take an unpaid leave and our daughter will keep up with the lessons of her Spanish-immersion school from afar (we’ll be in a good place for it). Having made drawing
a regular part of my life again for the past five years, I’m now looking
to stretch into another discomfort zone, using art (probably collage and sculpture) to create visual explorations of spiritual and psychological realities. Oaxaca is a great place for the arts, and all three of us expect to take classes and spend a lot of time on art. I also have some writing and social justice projects I’d like to complete during this precious time.
Thank you for recognizing how valuable an extended period of intel- lectual exploration is to a vibrant ministry. I am excited to discover what new depths this sabbatical may make possible. We will miss you, and will look forward to returning home to UUCPA.
In the meantime, we have six months before we welcome the sabbatical minister and wave a temporary goodbye. If you have any questions in the meantime, I’m here. — Blessings, Amy