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Insights: “Our Sabbatical”

By the time that you read this article I will be on sabbatical and please believe me when I tell you that I will miss you and my ministry at First Parish more than I can say. A Sabbatical is a time when a settled minister steps back from the day-to-day of their parish to refresh and reflect in order to move forward into, what some might consider, the next phase of one’s ministry. A sabbatical is not just about the minister… it is a time for the members and friends of First Parish to take your relationships, your commitment to Unitarian Universalism and your goal of growing the congregation to the next level. A sabbatical is not just about holding down the fort while the minister is away, it is about being fortified by one another as you engage deeply in your shared ministry.

This is a time to invite friends and neighbors to Sunday services and other events that you will envision and manifest. It is a time to support one another during times of joy and sorrow. It is a time to go deeper into your understanding of what it means to be a member of First Parish and for those of you who have been on the fence about joining… what is holding you back? Join, First Parish needs you! Over the next few months, with the help of the Board of Trustees, you will envision how First Parish might evolve and what role you may want to fill in this process. First Parish is what you make of it because it is yours. It is up to you and your representatives on the Board to be self governing. This is nothing new. We do this governing each and every day and at our annual meeting. The Unitarian Universalist Association, I affectionally refer to our national organizing body as the “mother ship,” explains a bit about the goal of our governance.

Governance is spelled out in the fifth Principle, which calls for “the use of the democratic process within our congregations.” Just as Unitarian Universalists emphasize-in our theology and history-the independence of each congregation rather than our interdependence through the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA), we emphasize the independence of each person more than our interdependence as members of a congregation. Under congregational polity each congregation is self-governing, choosing its own leadership, handling its own finances, and choosing its own delegates to the (UUA) General Assembly… How we relate to each other as individuals within a congregation mirrors the interrelations among congregations, entailing the same issue: balancing independence with interdependence. Difficult decisions such as actions for social justice, balancing the annual budget or a new location for the congregation spark (ie: new minister) bring the need for congregational polity and the democratic process to the forefront. Too often members of congregations believe that the only model for democratic process is for everyone to gather in one place and make all decisions by consensus. Although consensus may be appropriate for a small fellowship, it restricts both the size and development of the congregation. Rabbi and psychotherapist Edwin Friedman states the case: “[Consensus] tends to value peace over progress and personal relationships over ideas. . . . Emphasis on consensus gives strength to the extremists.” (https://www.uua.org/leadership/learning-center/governance/polity/47009.shtml)

As your settled minister I offer recommendations to the Board of Trustees and to the various committees that I meet with, but ultimately your direction, your goals, your hopes and dreams are yours, together. I am sure that you will learn so much independently and interdependently as you take your shared ministry to new places.

Over the next couple of months my hope is to rest, reflect and begin writing a book that studies the intersection of adoption, DNA and identity. These are all complicated issues taken one at a time, but the complexities and interconnections between these concepts together will be fascinating to unpack. As part of this very personal work I have committed to writing every day as well as journaling. I will hopefully be traveling to France and England at some point over the next few months to do some hands on research. I expect to be delightfully busy working on this passion that I have been only able to spend spare moments on over the last few of years.

I encourage you to reflect over this time as well, work on your credo that we talked about in October, which we will share in June, and endeavor to find your rhythm. You are each amazing people that have so much to share with one another.

Remember that I love you, be safe and I will miss you until we see one another again!

Rev. Marjorie