That's still almost 11 months away, but I just want everyone to be aware that it's coming. Herewith a bit of a FAQ:
Q: Is this normal?
Very. I wish it were more normal in other lines of work -- I think lawyers and doctors and bankers -- and their clients and patients -- would also benefit if they had sabbaticals. As it is, professors and ministers commonly have sabbaticals to go do something different. For professors, it's typically travel and study. Ministers might do that, too.
Among full-time UU ministers sabbaticals are very common. Here's the language in the Letter of Agreement that CUUC and I have -- it's very typical of what is in most such Letters of Agreement between UU ministers and the congregations they serve:
"Sabbatical Leave: The Minister will use sabbatical leave for study, education, writing, meditation and other forms of professional and religious growth. Sabbatical leave accrues at the rate of four weeks per year of service, with the first leave to be taken no sooner than five years from the date of first employment with the Church. Successive leaves may be taken after three years of service. Not more than six months of sabbatical leave may be used in any twelve-month period."Q: You've been here that long already?
I know! The time does fly. Yes, in summer 2019, I will have finished six years. I'll be in need of stepping back and rejuvenating and reflecting on ideas for the next six years.
Q: Has CUUC ever had a minister go on Sabbatical?
Rev. Carol Huston (served CUC 2001-2011) had a sabbatical, I understand. Jef Gamblee, who had just finished his ministerial internship as the sabbatical began stayed on to serve as the Sabbatical Minister. I don't know if Rev. Shannon Bernard (served CUC 1985-1998) ever took sabbatical. I hope so!
Q: Who will be our Sabbatical Minister?
The Board and I are working on that question. We do not, as yet, have anyone lined up. But we do expect to bring in a Sabbatical Minister for those six months.
Q: What will you be doing?
I have long yearned for the experience of an extended period of uninterrupted Zen practice. In fact, the six-month monastic training period is a requirement in many Zen schools for becoming a Zen teacher. I'm not seeking any Zen credentialing, but I figure there's a good reason for the requirement. I have chosen a Zen monastery in Oregon where I will be in residence -- living like a monk for six months.
Q: Will the experience change you?
Q: Will you come back?
Yes. I promise.
Q: What if we really like the Sabbatical Minister and don't want you to come back?
Then we will have some talking to do! I'll be very happy for you that you had such a good experience while I was away. In the end, of course, you, the members of the Congregation, as always, have the power to call and dismiss ministers as you see fit.
Q: Are you worried about that scenario?
Q: Why is it called "sabbatical"?
The root is the same as in Sabbath. Literally, it means "ceasing." Traditionally, farmers would let any given field lie fallow every seventh year as a way to avoid depleting the soil, and allow it to absorb new nutrients. So the tradition developed of people taking every seventh year to "lie fallow."
Q: Do you need to lie fallow?
Now that you ask, I find that, yes, a feeling of need for fallow time does seem to be calling my name with increasing insistence. I sure will miss all of you, though!