Wonderings about Identity… and Sabbatical – January 2017

“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!