Reflections on Returning From Sabbatical
Rev. Beth Chronister
To the Members and Friends of UUC,
It is good to return to UUC and be among you once more. I returned from a four month sabbatical just in time for Flower Communion and the Annual Congregational Meeting at the beginning of June. I am re-entering the flow of church life on the cusp of summer when many are preparing for travels and the calendar at UUC becomes a little more sparse for the months of July and August, making time for rest and renewal for leaders and staff. In this season of people coming and going, it might be some time before our paths cross. Know that I am transitioning back and look forward to reconnecting—it will be a whole season of happy reunions and homecomings!
I am grateful to share that I am returning to UUC feeling deeply renewed. Like many others, the past years have been uniquely emotionally and spiritually draining. Over the four months, through spiritual practice, rest, reconnecting with family, and much travel, I refilled my cup. Heck, I feel like I refilled a whole well! It was an extraordinary gift to receive. I remember one moment in particular when I was hiking to the northernmost point of the Isle of Skye in Scotland. I was drinking in the beauty of the cliffs, the mystery of ancient ruins, and the whimsy of sheep literally everywhere and my body was suddenly vibrantly alive with gratitude. I was filled with gratitude for this UUC community, to the UUC staff, and my colleagues, Rev. Deborah and Rev. Jon, in supporting me in creating time to rest my tired heart and find revival in the world. Looking out on the cathedral of earth, sea and sky, I had an experience of holy presence, one of many that touched me during the months I was away. Through rest and joy, I reconnected to life. I now know, in my core, how a heart that is full is able to hold so much more in a world that is so often heart-breaking.
The experience of sabbatical was transformative in ways I will be discovering for some time to come. I look forward to continuing this discovery process in community and companionship with you at UUC. And of course, sharing more stories.
UUC has also been transforming over the past months. It was so moving to hear all three choirs make music together and to sing again with the congregation at Flower Communion. The church community has continued to adapt to changing circumstances, finding ways to keep people healthy and focusing on how we help each other become more whole in fractured times. Coming back into the community, it is something to behold. Even as it is clear that many are worn out at the close of the year (and how could it be anything otherwise?), there is also an undercurrent of vitality born from resilience in the congregation. We’ve come through so much, individually and collectively. Our communal and spiritual muscles have been strengthened. Some of those same muscles are also depleted or strained from overwork.
As we enter into the season of summer and as the stressors of the wider world and the heartbreak of national politics just keeps coming, I wish to extend to you one of the great blessings of my sabbatical—the permission to rest. Rest, not as an avoidance strategy, but as an acknowledgement that your body is sacred, your life worthy and your needs valid. Rest, so that feelings of grief, exhaustion, rage, and fear might be honored, witnessed and held by your own loving attention and by compassionate companions. Rest, so that the noise can begin to dissipate and you might discern more clearly what it is that you can do—what it is that we can do together. Action and resistance are absolutely needed right now. Our times call for solidarity, courage, imagination, and new ways of being in relationship with each other in order to be part of midwifing a more humane and equitable world. In this vitally important time, take time to refill your own cup as well. You would be amazed at the capacity of a heart that knows how to not only break, but break open. A heart that is full.