On Sabbatical

“It takes courage to say yes to rest in a culture where exhaustion is seen as a status symbol.” -Brene Brown

For so many of us, these last couple of years have seen us pushing ourselves beyond normal limits. Trying to do meaningful work, hold it all together, and inspire others while the world is in deep crisis. We all feel this collective weight. 2022 has been on the horizon for my sabbatical leave, and it feels especially necessary right now. In the sermon I gave before my sabbatical leave six and a half years ago my topic was, “You can’t pour from an empty cup.” I am deeply feeling the need to refill that cup so I can continue to serve this community for years to come. 

The what and why of this sabbatical

A sabbatical is a period of special leave granted for professional development in a manner not possible during the press of activity in a typical work year. The goal of this activity is to return to the congregation renewed and refreshed physically, emotionally, and spiritually. I started at UUCA on August 1st, 2008 and have served this congregation for 14 years.  Beyond the goals of reflection and revitalization my sabbatical time will be used to learn, educate, and collaborate, while leaving space to explore new ideas for the music program and worship services.  

During my previous sabbatical I attended a conference with Dr. Marcia McFee, an expert in worship design. This work became the centerpiece of my sabbatical journey, and has greatly influenced how we plan and design our worship services today.

My plan for this upcoming sabbatical includes a lot of books to read, some management training, and an attempt to write a book of my own, as well as other plans for re-inspiring this work of music direction. I plan to return to UUCA as a music director with new skills, new knowledge, refurbished dreams, and energy in reserve.  

“What are we going to do without Don?” 

The answer is simple: Thrive. When I was away in 2016 the music at UUCA continued to be great every Sunday because we’ve built a strong program and a culture of excellence over the past decade and a half. But more amazing things happened in my absence that we can learn from as a congregation. 

UUCA has an amazing staff team and, like most large congregations, we lean on their talents and leadership. It’s exciting to see what bubbles up when other leaders take charge and bring new perspectives. I will have a team of my own while I’m away to take care of the day to day business of the music program and tend to the active and multifaceted musical community at UUCA. My sabbatical team will consist of a part-time sabbatical music director, our amazing new accompanist, Willie Sullivan, lead audio technician Jeep Hook, as well as several congregant leaders: Kay Johnson, Eric Pohl, Kate Sweeney, Christine Strain, and lay minister Jennifer Thilo. 

We are also excited for our newly hired part-time sabbatical music director, LeRoy Kennedy, who will provide choral direction and professional support to our music program.  We are excited to share more information about LeRoy in the days and weeks to come. 

I will miss UUCA for these six months. I know that what we do in this community is special and transforms lives. I also know that the people here create waves of positivity and acceptance that reverberate in our wider community and create positive change beyond our knowledge. I am so grateful for this opportunity to step away and grow, and I can’t wait to be in our new building creating amazing worship and changing lives for years to come.