Midweek Message, March 23, 2022

One Month Until Sabbatical


Last year you heard the exciting news that First Congregational Church of Bellingham and I received a Lilly Grant for Clergy Renewal. That grant supports much of what will be happening—with me and with our church—these next few months.


As you may know, Sabbatical is a part of the Call Agreement between First Congregational Church of Bellingham, UCC and me. It reads: Sabbatical Leave is an important part of a minister's development. It enables the Lead Pastor to experience the kind of sustained training and personal renewal needed to be of greatest service in the church. It provides an opportunity both for the church and the Lead Pastor to reflect on present ministry and grow in vision for the future after a significant period of service…


This will not be an extended vacation nor a time to do research or write prolifically so that I “produce” something at the end. Instead, a carefully planned sabbatical is a chance to rest and reflect on my faith. It’s time away from my regular church responsibilities to renew my spirit.


My sabbatical officially begins on May 8, but I will take a week vacation ahead of that, thus starting my time away on May 1, 2022 and returning to ministry among you on August 15. I find that I sigh a deep breath as I write this. Why?


First, I love our congregation and I will miss you. You are a part of my daily life and spirit, and it will be a challenge to step away for three months. At the same time, I look forward to intentional time away from the daily duties—these last seven years have been full to the brim in our ministries, and a period of reflection and renewal is necessary. Be assured that after sabbatical I’ll be back: rested, refreshed, and ready to work together into our next years.

I’m confident that First Congregational’s leadership is solid while I’m away. You’ve got excellent moderators and Council in place, strong and stable staff, a highly capable Pastor in Davi, and an amazing visiting pastor has been approved for part time support (more about The Rev. Phiwa Langeni will be in an upcoming sabbatical brochure). A sabbatical planning team is also working on how our church will engage the sabbatical theme. And the Spirit guides, always.


My last Sunday will be April 24, and we’ll hold a sending ritual during that worship service. In the meantime, we will continue our Lenten meditations on God’s Full to the Brim compassion and look forward to Easter resurrection and renewal for all of creation.


In faith,

Pastor Sharon