The winter holidays and the turning of the New Year can be powerful times of reflection and ritual, offering connection with the most intimate and the most ultimate in our lives. As we mark endings, we are called to take stock of all that we have lost and all that we have been given. And with the promise of hope renewed, we resolve to commit again to health and to our most deeply held values.
These deliberations have been especially poignant for me this year, as I enter an extended time of Sabbatical, setting aside the rich ministry of serving our congregations for a while.
I marked ten years with the Unitarian Universalist Association this past August. It has been an extraordinary privilege to serve our lively Pacific Northwest congregations through the rhythms of religious community. For many years, I have greeted each day eager to see what would come. It has been humbling to know that what I said might help or harm, and humbling, too, when my presence at a precise time has made an important difference to a congregation or a religious leader. It has been necessary to be at peace with the truth that I cannot reach everyone and do everything, and that there times when the keenest attention and care won't affect some paths.
It is a boon that professional staff in the UUA are given the opportunity of Sabbatical. When I was first eligible, I was not ready. Now I am.
From January 2 through April 5, 2015, I will shut down my UUA email, cease answering the phone, and turn full-time to rest and contemplation.
I will think of my family, and go through boxes of things packed up and set aside when my parents died, and boxes of photos and trinkets and books from childhoods long gone – theirs, mine and my spouse's, our children’s. I will allow myself to be lost and found again in memory, regret, delight, forgiveness and acceptance.
For about half of my Sabbatical, I will enter silence on Zen retreats in Oregon and Massachusetts. As quiet settles my mind and opens my heart, I pray the stillness may allow me to better know the clarity and rightness of what is and will be.
While I am away, the resources of the Pacific Northwest District and the Pacific Western Region are still a phone call, email, video conference or visit away. As always, start with Diane Brinson, PNWD District Administrator (right). You can reach her at pnwd @ uua.org, or by phone at 425-957-9116. If Diane doesn’t have the answer to your question, she will arrange for a District Consultant or a Regional Staff member to contact you. All are ready to step in and help right away – the beauty of a team!
The Pacific Western Region UUA staff are beginning to identify areas of specialty and focused interest, and our Regional Lead, the Rev. Nancy Bowen (left), will be able to direct staff resources your way. This will continue to unfold throughout the year, and I will fit into this pattern when I return. Our hope is that all our congregations in the Pacific West will find dynamic staff partners both geographically and in purpose.
Your Pacific Northwest District Board of Directors (right) is working with Nancy and the other three district boards of the Pacific Western Region to consider the impact and potential of regional collaboration, including a unified UUA staff team and the finances and practices that will support this new approach to shared resources for the vibrant extension of Unitarian Universalism in the west. Watch for their communications, as there is much to consider here. I expect to sit in on a lively discussion when the PNWD convenes its Annual Meeting at UUA General Assembly in Portland, OR, this summer!
I look forward to seeing and connecting with you again this spring. In the meantime, two recommendations from me:
Plan to attend UUA General Assembly (GA) in June, and work as hard as you can to get as many of your congregational leaders as possible (including future leaders) to this event. It’s not often that GA comes to our part of the UUA – this is definitely a “don’t miss”! In 2007, when Portland last hosted General Assembly, we counted more than 1,100 UUs from the Pacific Northwest. Let’s break that record!
Send two or more of your leaders to Russell Lockwood Leadership School in August. This regional resource is in Seattle this year, and will probably not return to the Pacific Northwest before 2020. I’m convinced this week-long residential program is transformational for UU leaders and congregations. Check out our 2015 faculty and staff, and look for on-line registration to open in February!
Thank you for the blessing of serving you, as District Executive for the past ten years, and now as one of your regional Congregational Life Staff team members. Thank you for the gift of Sabbatical, rare and wonderful. Here’s to renewal. Catch you on the flip side!
Janine in 2004