I’ve always giggled at the idea of that obligatory grammar school essay titled, “What I Did This Summer.” I don’t recall ever being assigned one, but I know that I’ve thought about it, and never was sure what I would say. It feels so navel-gazey and boring. But this summer, while I was on sabbatical, I was able to delve into some learning and reflection, and I thought you might like to know a little bit about what I was up to.
When you tell someone you’re on sabbatical, they invariably get a bit of a glazed-over look, wistful, as if they wish they could have three months of paid vacation from work. And I totally get that. In some ways, sabbatical seems like quite a luxury. And it is. But one of the things I realized while I was gone is that there is an impact to being constantly on call. It becomes really difficult to stop and rest, to turn off your work brain. And (act surprised when I say this!) I tend toward over-functioning, so it’s easy for me to “forget” to take all of my vacation time, to work through my days off. And that tendency means that by the time I left for sabbatical I was pretty exhausted and ready for a break.
So, while on sabbatical, I was primarily able to experience life with just a little bit more spaciousness in it. I took more naps, and cooked more complicated recipes. I had the time to take a course through Columbia Seminary in Decatur, GA on “Leading from the Second Chair” (as associate minister, I’m in the second chair) which gave me some good insights into how I execute my job responsibilities, and how I live out my call to ministry in this congregation. Mark and I are slated to have some conversation about what I learned and how it might impact the ways we work together.
And, I attended General Assembly in Columbus, OH. Primarily, my role there was to be the lead Co-Chair of the Right Relationship Team. But I also walked at the Service of the Living Tradition, which honors transitions in ministry – I was able to celebrate attaining Final Fellowship with my family and friends, and a few congregants and staff from UUCA who were in attendance.
The folks from UUCA generously gifted me with a lovely stole in honor of that milestone, for which I am grateful. With that, and another stole given by a friend from seminary, I started reflecting on what the ministerial stole means to me. When I was in Massachusetts serving a more formal congregation, I wore a robe before I was ordained, but the stole was most definitely reserved for after ordination. To me, it symbolizes the weight of the office of minister and the sacredness of what I am doing when I wear it. It has never been a tradition for ministers here at UUCA, and I have followed that tradition since I have been here. And yet, I have missed claiming that marker of my role, and the way it calls me into a head and heart space that is different from my every day work.
Mark and I have since had some conversation about our personal thoughts and feelings about vestments of all kinds, and we know that every minister has different perceptions and needs around this sort of thing. Mark and I don’t land in the same place on this one. But the conversations have been interesting and illuminating. And so, as we begin to mix things up a bit in worship, our attire is going to get mixed up a bit, too. You’ll begin to see me wearing a stole when I am in the pulpit.
These deeper reflections on what ministry looks like, and who we are as individuals and together, are the kinds of things that get pushed to the back burner when I’m in the day to day of managing programs and solving problems. It is good to get to pause and go deeper.
As I said in my first sermon back, it was good to be away, and it is good to be back.
Rev. Lisa Bovee-Kemper is the Associate Minister of UUCA