Leah’s Blog – More Than Half Way – Sabbatical Update
Editor Albany UU | May 16, 2019

More Than Half Way – Sabbatical Update

I start my daily journal entry with simply the date, not day x of y of my sabbatical. I have plans for the day and for my travels, but I don’t keep lists of things to do. That is perhaps the reason I missed the deadline I gave myself at the end of March to give you a mid-sabbatical update. I did send a report at the beginning of May to Rev. Sam and to the REC in time for their May meeting. And some of you have been following my posts in the Albany UU News and Updates Face Book Page. In the spirit of beginning again, however, here’s a brief update for everyone.
I do have a daily routine. I get up in the morning about the time I normally do, but I’ve expanded my morning routine. Now, after breakfast and 20 min of You Tube yoga, I also have about 20 min of meditation, 20 minutes of journaling, and finally, a few minutes of cat petting. My cat, Baby, will have his 21st birthday soon, and he is more sedentary, but as affectionate as ever. I also practice my new banjo ukulele most days and I’m taking online voice lessons (just for fun, don’t expect any performances when I return).
This is different from my work routine where each Sunday night, I create a list of tasks, which is created from a list of monthly tasks, for the coming week. And each day, I work to tick off items so that by the next Sunday morning, (with help from Elizabeth), everything gets done. This routine has been efficient in getting immediate tasks done, but hasn’t helped me carve out time for reflection. This sabbatical has given me the opportunity to spend lots of time in reflection and relaxing. And I’m so grateful for it. I feel calmer. I’m sleeping better. I feel curious and relaxed at the same time.
I have not worried about how RE is going because we put plans in place before I left and we have awesome and adept staff and volunteers who can cover things that pop up.
To date, I’ve participated in three weekend workshops at Kripalu (I have one more to go). Those have been wonderful opportunities for me to relax and to learn ways of looking at the world and develop my spirituality.
I’ve been reading a lot: 7 books so far, (three were fiction, all those by women of color); I’m in the middle of 2 books (one nonfiction and one fiction); and I have 2 more books on my list, both nonfiction. I’m learning about different people’s life experiences, about spiritual matters, and about group dynamics.
I’ve visited 3 other congregations – one more to go. I can tell you some similarities and differences I’m seeing about congregations. One thing in common is that congregants speak very highly of their religious educators (DRE’s). Everyone talks about how well the children and youth are being served. Sometimes congregants include support of the families in their praise. Many long-timers appreciate the program now more than the way it used to be, when they taught RE – not that the old way was bad; it’s more they see how times have changed. The differences I’m seeing between congregations, (and yes, it’s a small sampling) seem to grow out of the story of each congregation.
  • At Rochester Unitarian (one of our largest UU congregations), they have a large population of middle schoolers. So, their DRE has created a 3-year program for them that includes different curricula, including Our Whole Lives (OWL), each spread out over the 3 years. Rochester Unitarian uses themes in the services and in RE. And they have lots of resources and a strong independent spirit. They create their own themes and the religious educator writes all the sessions for the children in grades K – 4 on the theme.
  • At Jefferson UU in Golden, Colorado, which is also a large congregation, they have a big population of families with little children (under age 6). Many of these children do not want to be separated from their parents, and the parents enjoy being at church with their children. So, the DRE there has a Wednesday night Family Worship that includes a catered dinner beforehand. The simple dinner is catered and the parents are fine with paying $5 per person in their family so that everyone can relax. The 25-minute worship includes ritual, singing, a story and invitations for family members to interact with each other. They also use themes so that even if these families do not come on Sunday morning, since the Family Worship is based on the theme, all the families are connected with the rest of the congregation.
  • The congregation at Emerson UU in Marietta, Georgia, has almost 100 children and youth enrolled in RE, and 175 adult members. This congregation is very focused on families as well as their social justice projects. To meet everyone’s needs they have a different structure on Sunday mornings. Each week, they start with the religious service at 9:45, which is for adults and children. The service includes a 20-minute sermon; after which, there is childcare for children under 7 years old after the Wisdom Tale, though many young children stay with their families for the whole service. Then there is a 30-minute coffee hour for everyone with snacks for all. And from 11:15 to 12:15 they have RE for all. Children and youth have their RE sessions and adults choose from a selection of offerings for them – like Small Group Ministry; a presentation on a specific topic of the day; and a discussion of the sermon with the minister.
When I get back, I’ll have a mini-retreat with the REC to share more about what I’m experiencing and learning. The RE has a mission and vision, and the congregation has a mission statement, but I think it might be valuable for us to look deeply at what our passions, needs and resources are. I’d like us to think about what the story of our congregation is.
In joyful service,