It has been a blessing to practice what I preach in the realm of sacred rest and renewal these past two months. Our church has a generous policy of offering ordained pastors several months of sabbatical leave after 5 years of consecutive service, which I had been planning to divide in two parts, first in January and February, followed by another period later in the year. The timing and nature of that second leave has shifted a bit in the past few months, given some exciting personal news. I am delighted to share that our family is expecting to welcome our second child at the end of the summer (due date is September 2nd). Thank you in advance for all your loving support, celebration and prayers for continued well-being!
I am in early conversation with our Personnel Committee, staff and other church leaders around the details and timing of parental leave (I hope to be back for Advent!). Given this anticipated leave, along with Rev. Molly’s sabbatical in summer 2021, Molly, Ron Elsdon (Personnel Chair) and I have begun exploring some creative staffing possibilities, in order to ensure a strong, stable, and consistent team of pastoral care and worship leadership. We will share more information with the congregation as this process moves forward, with the input and recommendation of the Personnel Committee, Stewardship, Finance & Administration, and Church Council.
I want to thank the congregation and everyone who made this time possible, especially sabbatical coverage ministers Rev. Sheryl Johnson and Rev. Kelly Colwell, and all our leaders and staff who stepped up to shoulder extra responsibility (especially Rev. Molly!) Besides spending much of my Jan/Feb sabbatical working hard (well, mostly napping hard) growing a tiny new human-becoming, there was also time for travel, learning, reading, creative exploration, and quality time with family.
Some highlights include a week learning about Being & Building Great Teams through “The Circle Way” and “The Art of Hosting” in Carefree, AZ with the UCC Pension Board’s Next Generation Leadership Initiative. Family travel included a Southern California road trip from Ojai to Joshua Tree, and restful time in Hawaii (Kauai and Oahu) with my parents. I recommitted to performing with my improvisational comedy group, the Berkeley Players, and I got to participate in several workshops at the Berkeley Rep School of Theater in both Playwriting and “Theater of the Present.” Perhaps most important was time and space to think, pray and read (novels, theology, neuroscience and child development, leadership, and poetry…). The poet Jane Kenyon writes, “Be a good steward of your gifts. Protect your time. Feed your inner life. Avoid too much noise. Read good books, have good sentences in your ears. Be by yourself as often as you can. Walk. Take the phone off the hook.” I’m grateful to return to day-to-day ministry with good sentences and inner quiet still ringing in my ears and heart.
In the Genesis Creation story, even God needs rest… it’s not a suggestion, it’s a commandment! As we all adjust to the disappointments and potential loneliness of recommended social distancing in these unfolding days, I hope we can find pockets of restful sabbath energy amidst the frustration and fear — permission to tackle that bedside book pile, take time in personal prayer, pull out your journal, catch up on sleep! Attending to our relationship with self, family and God is foundational spiritual work we can do no matter our circumstances, and which this season’s mandated slower pace may actually help us make space for.
With deep gratitude for all that has been and all that is to come,