A sabbatical is the gift of time for a clergyperson. I draw the purpose and meaning of a sabbatical from the Jewish understanding of “Sabbath” which is a day not just to refrain from doing but is “the day of the quieting of the heart.” It is a time set apart. It is “the place from which we live and return to taste the Holy.” One lives from the Sabbath rather than living for the Sabbath. The goal is to infuse the spirit of the Sabbath throughout all the other days of our lives.

I have arranged my sabbatical around a quieting of my heart. I am filling it with a variety of experiences and opportunities that each allows me entry into and a quieting of my heart. I will be on sabbatical from January 1- March 31 of 2017. Below is what I have put in place for my sabbatical.

January: Years ago I read Bernie Glassman’s book, Bearing Witness, about his leading a Zen retreat at Auschwitz with children of survivors, children of Nazi’s, and various Buddhist practitioners. His haunting description of Auschwitz as “impossible” has drawn me ever since. So Lori and I will fly to Krakow, Poland, spend some time visiting the old synagogues there as well as various museums including one that is housed in Oscar Schindler’s factory. In addition, I will be visiting Auschwitz and Birkenau concentration camps.

Afterwards I will fly to Berlin to meet up with my sister and nephew who both live in Germany. I hope to visit the Holocaust Museum again as some family possessions have been donated to their archive.

Because I have always found the wild and wide open spaces to connect me with what I hold as sacred, Lori and I will be renting a camper and visiting Death Valley as well as traveling to southern Arizona to explore natural areas.

For the month of February I will be staying at the Trout Lake Zen Abbey in Trout Lake, Washington. I will have my own “hermitage” with access to a kitchen as well as to sitting with the community twice a day. I will receive spiritual direction from the abbot. My time will mostly be spent in silence and reading.

In the first part of March, Lori and I will go to Molokai, Hawaii to spend quiet time walking the beaches and soaking up the sun as well as reconnecting after a month apart. Later in the month, I will be attending a workshop at Ghost Ranch in Abiquiu, New Mexico called, The Soul Never Forgets: Leading from Your Deepest Values – A Courage & Renewal Retreat:

“Based on the work of Parker J. Palmer and the Center for Courage & Renewal®, this retreat explores issues of transition, vocation, life passion, purpose, meaning, direction, relationships and underlying life patterns, to live in alignment with your soul, your deepest values, the courage to act with integrity and authenticity.”

 I would like to spend a week in Washington, D.C. afterwards visiting the National Museum of the American Indian, the Holocaust Museum, the National Museum of African American History and Culture, and the Smithsonian. If that is not possible then I would most likely spend a week on Whidbey once again walking the beaches and reading.

My hope upon my return to WUUC is to suffuse my ministry with the gifts received during this time of the “quieting of the heart.”

During my sabbatical, I will not be checking church email, answering or making church phone calls or attending to social media. In short I will be away from the “business as usual” of the work of WUUC. In case of an emergency, staff will be able to contact me with the exception of the times that I will be out of cell phone range.

Though the importance of a sabbatical is often focused on a minister, it is an equally important time for a congregation. It can be a time of reflection for the community, discovering what is of ultimate importance to it and how it wants to live into what it values. This not a time for launching a hundred new programs or ideas nor is it just a time to be in a holding pattern. It is a time to be both inward looking and outward looking, reviewing what has been and looking to and planning for what is next.

I have already lined up three colleagues to preach once a month during my absence: The Rev. Peter Lutton, the Rev. Karen Taliesan, and the Rev. Amanda Aikman. Grace Simons will be preaching this year’s Stewardship sermon. In addition, Rev. Jamil will be in the pulpit. He will also be available for pastoral care along with the Lay Pastoral Associates. The Board will carry on doing what it has been doing all year: the work of governance of WUUC. The Ministry Leads (Alaine Davis, David Simons, and Jan Radoslovich) will be meeting with committees and task forces with a focus on all the programmatic aspects of life at WUUC.  Karen Hyams will continue her work as our Engagement Coordinator and Lori Varosh will continue to be the keeper of knowledge of all things WUUC. Almost without exception, if you have a question, your first call or contact should be with Lori.

In short you all — we — are in good hands: one another’s.

Peace, Shalom, Salaam,
Rev. Lo