Dear People’s people,

At the December board meeting, your board approved a sabbatical for me. I will be on sabbatical February 15 to July 15, 2021.

Why sabbatical?

A sabbatical is a rare and precious benefit that the church, as an employer concerned about the well-being of its staff, offers to program staff. Our religious tradition and others have found that clergy and religious educators avoid burnout and perform their best if they have periods of deep rest, study, and rejuvenation. I am tremendously grateful that you all offer sabbaticals – and I wish others with jobs as demanding (or more demanding) than mine also received this benefit.

 

Why 2021?

My letter of agreement with People’s Church states that ‘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 board approved a five month sabbatical in what will be my sixth year with People’s Church. I decided on these dates because it feels important to me to be actively serving the church during the 2020 election and its aftermath, whatever that might be. Returning to work in mid-July gives me enough time to get my feet back under me before the program year begins in September.

 

What will I do with my sabbatical?

My plans are still taking shape, but this is some of what I am considering:

  • Researching my family’s history. Since the summer, I have been part of a ‘Healing Whiteness through Somatic Experiencing’ group through ISAAC. One of the most powerful pieces of this work is researching my family’s story and how my ancestors engaged with (and contributed to) the racial trauma of our country. In doing some basic googling on a handed-down family story, I learned that when my seven-time great grandparents founded the town of Garrettsville, OH in 1804, bringing two enslaved girls with them, ages 6 and 10. That is all I know about this story and I want to learn more.
  • I want to read. I have a very long list of books that I want to read. This list spans genres, though theology, history, poetry and fiction predominate.
  • I also hope to stretch myself by learning things that I don’t know anything about. I might take art, home repair, or dance classes. Taking classes in an area I know nothing about what a source of joy for me before I had children. I hope to return to that.
  • I am excited to be present to my family in ways that full-time ministry, with its evening meetings and weekend gatherings, makes impossible. We will spend more time together eat a lot less frozen pizza.

 

What will happen at People’s church when I am away?

Things will continue largely as they have been, though there will be a wider variety of people preaching on Sunday mornings. Your board is starting to think about how to make sure essential tasks are completed in my absence. They are figuring out what volunteers can take on, what might go undone, and if we might need to either hire a sabbatical minister or shift the job responsibilities of current staff to take on my institutional leadership roles. We will be in conversation with those of you who were leaders during previous sabbaticals. If you have ideas, please talk to a board member.

See you in church,
Rachel

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