Minister’s Message – May
From Rev. Sharon Wylie
My four-month sabbatical begins on July 4th. On the one hand, that is two months away, which feels like a long time. On the other hand, it’s just around the corner!
This will be the second sabbatical for me in my 10 years of serving Chalice (my first sabbatical—also four months—was in 2016). It is recommended in our denomination that ministers take sabbatical leave every 4-5 years. The scheduling of a sabbatical is not something that happens automatically or routinely; in April 2021, I submitted my request for sabbatical leave from July through October of 2022, and the Board of Trustees approved my request. It is considered a good practice to schedule sabbatical leave a year (or more) in advance.
Even before the pandemic, ministry was well-known to be a high stress, high burnout vocation. The New York Times reported on clergy burnout in August 2010. The pandemic, of course, has only added to the stresses. Clergy are now part of what’s being called “The Great Resignation,” the ongoing economic trend of employees resigning, retiring, and switching careers.
The UUA does not usually give us lots of data to analyze, but it is becoming clearer and clearer that there are more positions for ministers than there are currently ministers to fill the positions. This is a dramatic change from just two years ago. Of our five UU congregations in San Diego County, only two (including Chalice) currently have the same minister(s) that they had in March 2020. First UU Church of San Diego has filled their lead minister position this past year with a series of short-term ministers—ranging from 6 weeks to four months—called the “Minister in Residence.” (Their new developmental minister will begin serving this coming August.)
I also know multiple ministers who took substantial time off this year for mental health.
All this information is on my heart because it helps me be gentle with myself that I feel so tired, or that it takes me so long to do things I used to do more quickly. Ordinary tasks seem harder than they used to, and activities that require a certain amount of brain power take longer than ever. I know many of you in the congregation feel this way as well. We’re traumatized! We’re exhausted. It will take us all a long time to recover.
(If you want a giggle about what our brains are going through, go to YouTube to find Saturday Night Live’s recent “Is My Brain Okay” skit.)
To sum it all up: It will be hard to be away from you all when it finally feels like we might be setting the pandemic behind us. And I know that my taking time off now will be important for me to continue to serve as your minister, as I hope to do, for years to come.
Blessings and love to you,