Minister’s Message – March 2016

As you read in last month’s newsletter, I will be on sabbatical leave from July 4 through October 30 this year. This time off will actually be three months of sabbatical leave, plus two weeks of vacation and two weeks of study leave.

I have never before had work that provided time off for sabbatical. On paper, it seems luxurious. In practice, it feels necessary. The work of the minister is demanding in two ways: 1) it is the work of a scholar, expected to continuously read, think, and create/write and 2) it is the work of a caregiver, companioning those in crisis, those approaching the end of life, and those who are grieving.

After four years of this joyful but demanding work, I will be ready for my sabbatical when the time comes. What follows is information from my Letter of Agreement (LOA) with the congregation about how sabbatical leave works. (I have pulled out sections of interest; this is not the complete verbiage on sabbatical leave.)

 The Minister shall use sabbatical leave for study, education, writing, meditation, and other forms of professional and religious growth. Sabbatical leave accrues at the rate of one month per year of service, with leave to be taken after four but before seven years of service. No more than six months of sabbatical leave may be used within any twelve-month period.
 The Congregation agrees to take no action on ministerial tenure during a sabbatical leave.
 The Minister agrees not to resign from full-time service to the Congregation for a minimum of one year following the end of each sabbatical leave.

My LOA largely follows the joint recommendations on ministerial agreements that come from the UU Ministers Association and the UUA. The language on sabbatical leave in my LOA follows these recommendations exactly.

You can see how stressful sabbatical is expected to be: the congregation agrees not to fire me while I’m gone, and I agree not to quit after I get back. Nice, right? Fun! Good times! The understanding that sabbatical puts stresses on a congregation’s relationship with its minister is why the current “best practice” is to take shorter sabbaticals more frequently, rather than taking 8-12 months off at a time.

I am grateful to the Board for approving this time off, and I am also grateful to the many Chalice congregants who have told me how happy you are for me to have this break. You are curious to know how I will use the time, and so am I! I will keep you posted. In the meantime, there are many things happening at Chalice and much to do, so let’s savor these months together before our time apart.

Bright blessings, Sharon

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