Three months. Ninety days of taking chances. Over three thousand hours without the safety net of ‘the usual.’ Somehow, we survived. And, here we are, arriving back in a place that is both familiar and different…returning to what we know while at the same time knowing all kinds of stuff we didn’t know before.
Did you enjoy your sabbatical? YOUR sabbatical, I mean…the one that offered you a break from the expected and familiar…the one that perhaps called on you to do/be something more…something out of your comfort zone?
During the past three months, we all took some risk. I know; risk is usually associated with the dare devils and thrill seekers, and perhaps we don’t see ourselves in that way. Yet risks are presented to us every day in very ordinary ways. It is risky to step outside the lines. It is risky to sit with or live in the unfamiliar. It takes guts to try new things and put ourselves in vulnerable situations. Every time we make a commitment to something or someone, we are taking a risk. It can require courage just to talk with people we don’t know, especially if they represent something different. Heck, just stepping off the curb can be dangerous!
As Janet Rand has been quoted, “The person who risks nothing…simply cannot learn, feel, change, grow, love – live.” As I look back on my sabbatical, I realize it required risk. I took some big chances and walked into a few uncomfortable situations. I did things I have never done before. I will soon be publishing a sabbatical report in which I’ll tell you about it. But for now, let me say that while it cost a lot of money, caused some sleeplessness, put a big burden on UFP’s leadership, and created some tensions, it resulted in, for me, gifts and lessons well worth the cost.
I trust that over these three months, you also were blessed with gifts and lessons that would not have come your way if it were not for the ‘risk of sabbatical’ that we took together.
I look forward to hearing your stories of the winter of 2017!
Returning again in love,
~ Rev. Julie
“All people have a major task, from cradle to grave, of defining who they are.” ~ Naim Akbar, psychologist
During the months of January to March, while you here in Peterborough are focusing on the theme of identity, I will be away doing the same thing. I am taking some time to further define who I am…that is, to find and/or re-discover my own voice…and this is a time for you to do that as well. My deepest wish is that you…as individuals and as a community…find ways to joyfully express more fully who you truly are.
We are always defining and re-defining ourselves, both in response to the events and relationships in our lives and as we grow deeper and deeper into self-awareness and discovery. The thing is, the work of identity is never ‘finished’…it requires that we experiment, try things on for size, put ourselves in new situations, take some serious risks.
As we do that, and throughout our lives, our identity continues to change. Because we are relational beings, as we change and claim who we are becoming, our relationships change, which can put us in vulnerable spots. We may worry that our changes will lead to loss or rejection. And yet, I hope you will change in these months. Keep your eyes open, notice what’s different in my absence, and then move into being co-creators of this community. Step out of your comfort zone. Do things in new and different ways. Take the lead.
Identity as a community is an amorphous thing…not easy to grasp. Still, UFP is also constantly undergoing identity work, whether we aware of it or not. So, spend time with one another. Develop more relationships. Participate in the ‘Community Conversations.’ Learn more about who you are, and who you want to be, together. This is a time for you, as a congregation, to discover your own resources, your capacity, your gifts, AND your dreams.
(For example, if you serve on one of our teams or committees, I encourage you to ask yourself why. What is it that matters about the work that you do there? And what can you do to make it more meaningful? What do you really want to accomplish?)
You see, identity is not always a choice… it can be imposed by those in power—like a parent, the ‘way we’ve always done it’, cultural pressures, or even by a minister! I have heard that over-functioning ministers nurture under-functioning congregations…that a minister who shows up for everything risks communicating that no one should make a move without clergy approval. One can’t argue that I don’t over-function, and, it saddens me to think that in so doing, I have stymied some of your energy and creativity.
So, go ahead and discover who you are without my presence. Explore with wild abandon! Do this with my blessing and my encouragement!
I am ever so grateful for the gift of this sabbatical time. I need it. My soul is weary and my patience often thin. I will do my best to come back from this time refreshed and with renewed commitment to our shared ministry. May the same be true for you.
See you later, alligators… ~ Rev. Julie
BN: We have playfully named our webpage about my sabbatical “When the Cat’s Away…” http://peterboroughunitarian.ca/sabbatical-2017/
During my sabbatical, I will not be responding to email messages and do not plan to be very present on Facebook. I will not be away from Peterborough for the whole time, so if we happen to run into one another, I will be happy to see you. I only request that we not talk about the Fellowship!
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