Tending One’s Spirit

Tending One’s Spirit

For me, there’s something about gazing at the water out into the horizon. I don’t really understand it fully, but I can feel it somewhere in my soul or spirit—somewhere deep down, anyway—that there’s something that nourishes me and renews me in that view. I was lucky enough this summer, just recently, to be able to spend a week right on Lake Michigan, where I could sit and gaze at the lake just about anytime I wanted to. I had packed a lot of reading materials and some puzzles, and really, it turned out I was happy to just sit and look. Or walk and look. And sometimes, almost as deliciously, I would close my eyes when on the actual lake beach, and listen to the water lapping up onto the shore again and again. Perhaps you feel the same about the water…or maybe some other aspect of nature that speaks to something deep within you. I hope there’s something that pops into your mind as you read this.

I was grateful to have a week of vacation in another spot, to get a little respite and rest and renewal before the program year (as at least our faith development for children and youth functions) kicks into gear. We have a little more to get in place than usual, as I will be taking six months of sabbatical time from October 1, 2022–March 31, 2022. It is standard practice for settled Unitarian Universalist ministers to earn one month of sabbatical leave per year of service, with the sabbatical leave to be taken usually after six years of service, for no more than six months. (My last sabbatical was October 2014–March 2015, eight years ago.) The timing means that we will have our program year launched before I leave, and I’ll be back before we are into full spring and summer mode and preparation for the following program year.

My vacation week reminded me that during my sabbatical time, I’ll definitely want to spend more time at the lake. My spirit needs some tending to—whose doesn’t in these challenging times? —and that is one place I know I can go that will be restorative. I’ve also got a lot of reading and writing and reflecting on my list for that time. One of the gifts of sabbatical for ministers is the ability to step back and engage in big picture thinking and connect with the wider world of possibilities. Especially these past few years, it feels like we’ve had to constantly adapt and pivot, without, at least it feels so to me, a chance to take a lot of deep breaths.

Our Religious Education Coordinator, Val Ridenour, will be expanding her hours during the sabbatical time to full time to tend to many of the things that would normally fall under my purview, at least as it pertains particularly to religious education for children and youth. Those who serve on the Religious Education Committee for Children and youth will be increasing and expanding their leadership service during this time as well. I am so very grateful to them and to the other personnel (both staff and volunteers) who will be serving in new and deeper ways to support other programming that I normally tend to. A ministerial sabbatical is also an opportunity for everyone in the congregation to more deeply engage in service and reflection a little differently.

There will be plenty of time to connect before I leave for sabbatical on October 1. Homecoming Sunday (with our water communion ceremony) will be August 28, Religious Education classes for children and youth will start September 11, and my last Sunday in the pulpit this fall will be September 25. Please feel to free reach out if you’d like to touch base in some other way before then.

I’m not going to lie, I’m looking forward to it. And. I’m going to miss you.

I am grateful for this gift of time, and investment in our mutual growth. It’s a little like gazing out into the horizon.