Dear People’s People,

On February 15, I will begin a five-month sabbatical. I am so profoundly grateful for the chance to step away from ministry for a season and to replenish my spirit. I am exhausted by 9 years straight of ministry work (only 5.5 at People’s), parenting two young children, and the reimagining of every aspect of congregational life that we have had to do this year without childcare and the other external supports that my family relies on. I know there are others in our community equally exhausted. How I wish everyone could have a sabbatical who needs one!

Church leaders and I have been working hard to figure out how to fill the ‘Rachel-shaped holes’ my absence will cause. Here are our plans:

Worship: What will happen on Sunday mornings at 10:45am? Your Sunday services committee and I are in the midst of recruiting service leaders for the spring and summer. You can expect a mix familiar spring services (like the youth service, music service, and poetry service), preaching from People’s people, familiar guest preachers (including minister emerita Jill McAllister and former intern Dennis McCarty), leaders from our partners in doing the work of justice in Kalamazoo, and a few UU ministers that you haven’t met yet who I’m excited to have lead worship in my absence.

Administration: How will we keep the church functioning as an organization? Diane Melvin, our Director of Religious Education will be taking on many of my administrative duties during the sabbatical. She will be meeting with the board, supporting stewardship and budget building (as we figure out how that happens now), and otherwise acting as our lead administrator. Diane will be doing less in the DRE role during this time and Laura Bultman, our interim religious education assistant, will be taking on more responsibility (and more hours) during the sabbatical.

Pastoral Care: How will we care for People’s people experiencing grief, loss, and transition? I have recruited a stellar pastoral care team – Don Miller, Darryl Loiacano, Nancy Mitchell, Gay Walker, and Rochelle Habeck Hunt – who will offer spiritual and emotional support to People’s people and who will help connect folks to other care providers in our community. The Board has also hired J. Barrett Lee, a local hospice chaplain (and occasional People’s Church guest preacher) as an on-call pastoral caregiver for People’s people. Barrett will also be available to officiate rites of passage, including weddings and memorial services, if that need arises. He will be leading the service on January 24.

Everything else: Many of the other programs and ministries that I am involved with will be led by our capable committees and other leaders during my absence. Many staff and People’s people are taking on a little extra to make my sabbatical possible. I am deeply grateful. If you have questions about any of this – or anything else – please reach out.

See you in church, virtually,
Rev. Rachel

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