October Pastor's Note

Updated: Oct 31

As I write this, I’ve been back in the saddle for less than a month. It’s hard to believe! Experiencing the passage of time is so relative, not only from one person to the next, but within the individual lived experience, from season to season. The welcome back has been enthusiastic, and I appreciate the love that it reflects.

I know many of you have been looking forward to hearing more about what I did over the summer. I’ve made a full report, complete with pictures, which you can read here. I also have put together a photo book, and I have two copies here at the church that I am happy to share. I’ll plan to have them in the Commons on Sunday mornings, but if you happen to be in the church at another time, just stop on by!

As I started to look ahead to my sabbatical, over a year and a half ago, I knew I wanted to incorporate some kind of creative or artistic endeavor, but I didn’t know what, or even how I’d be able to try things out. When I was in elementary school, I participated in an extracurricular program called ETC Art - Extra Talented and Creative. So at one point in my life, I had some affirmation for my creative gifts!

As I got older, I focused less on the arts and more in the humanities. Life got busier, and my time and energy became more narrowly focused. Parenting and pastoring are two vocations where the work is never “done,” and without intentionally branching out, it’s easy to let either or both become all-consuming. I wanted to use the space of sabbatical to re-engage in hands-on creative endeavors.

Sabbatical also came as a very welcome and needed break. For many different reasons, I have been maintaining an unsustainable pace of life, over the course of years. I knew it, but I also didn’t know how to change it. Everything felt important and urgent and I didn’t know what could give. Also, parenting younger children and pastoring during a global pandemic have been widely and wildly challenging. I’ve been running on fumes for far too long, and sabbatical gave me time and space to change the pace.

I also knew, going into it, that three months would go by quickly. I had a lot of plans squeezed into that time. While many of those plans were enriching, others included taking care of important life tasks that are just stressful and time consuming, like finally getting around to making a will, advanced medical directive, and other important legal things. I knew that three months of life at a different pace wouldn’t erase the wear and tear of the years leading up to it, but it certainly did help.

A few Sundays ago, I referenced a blog post by one of my colleagues, also on sabbatical this summer, entitled: “Sabbatical was not ‘Restorative.’”[1] She confessed that her tank was emptier in August than it had been when she started the sabbatical in June. Some of what she wrote resonated deeply with me, and I’ve spent some time thinking about the question for myself. Was my sabbatical “restorative?”

It didn’t refill and top off my tank, or fully recharge my batteries. I knew it wouldn’t. But it did enliven parts of myself that have long been dormant. I’ve been in survival mode for a long time, and in survival mode, we conserve energy by shutting down what we deem to be unnecessary functions. Everything pared down to pastoring and parenting, and surviving.

Sabbatical gave me the time and space to reengage some of those parts I’d long ago shut down. I read for fun. I created. I spent quality time with dear people. Sabbatical restored to me dimensions of my God-created self that haven’t been nurtured in a long time. So while I may not be wholly re-energized, I hope I’m more wholly present and restored as the person God created me to be.

Now that I am back in the saddle, it’s easy to fall back into familiar patterns. So I am intentionally keeping before myself that challenge of living into the fullness of my created being. I need to make time to continue developing as a glass artist, to practice that and other creative pursuits on a regular basis. I want to continue to learn about and practice improv comedy. And I know how important it is for me to make space for quality time with family and friends.

It can feel selfish to prioritize these re-entry goals. But I know - intellectually if not yet in my bones - that I will be a better pastor and parent, spouse, sibling, daughter, and friend, if I can bring my whole self into these roles. It’s also a matter of stewardship. I want this gift of sabbatical to take root and grow, to bear good fruit. I appreciate the many ways people stepped in and stepped up, not only to make this time possible, but to truly bless it.

I’m also so grateful to be able to say, 100% and without any reservations, that there is no community I’d rather be coming back home to than the one right here. I look forward to continuing to grow together.


Grace and Peace,

Stephanie

[1] https://mailchi.mp/49fd14c9f901/sabbatical-was-not-restorative?e=8bdf5246f6

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