My dear UUCC, I marvel that I am completing my 15th year of ministry with you. 15 ingathering services. 15 water communions. 15 Christmas Eves (or is that Christmases Eve?). 15 YRUU services. 15 Quest services. 15 annual meetings. Soon-to-be-15 summer breaks.
I haven’t tried to count the number of sermons preached, or children dedicated, or lives celebrated in death, or unions sanctified in wedding ceremonies, or classes taught.
I don’t think I could count the number of pastoral care sessions, or hospital visits, or poems read, or stories heard, or thanks given (and received), or apologies offered (and received), or lessons learned (by me, of course).
And the number of hugs or high-fives or fist-bumps exchanged?! Impossible to quantify.
Not to mention the numerous ways that our shared ministry has drawn me beyond the literal and figurative walls of UUCC — to the Maryland State House, to the steps of the US Supreme Court, to street corners and non-profit board rooms and our faith partners’ houses of worship. Deeper into an understanding of what it means to be just and loving and whole — to be fully human.
All of these things — and more — are what make this ministry, this life with you, so very precious to me.
I’ve been flipping through photos (one of my favorite features of the smart phone!), reminding myself of all we’ve done together just this program year. I saw pictures of legos from the Board of Trustees’ planning retreat in August; an interfaith worship service at the Chrysalis to celebrate Columbia’s 50th anniversary in September; a new pulpit and Anthony’s ordination in October; a religious education (re-)visioning in November; a Scrooge-y pageant in December; a Care and Feeding of Volunteers workshop in January; my kids’ birthdays’ and a family trip in February (it’s not all ministry!); Solo cups and YRUU in worship in March; Flower Communion in April; UU Unity Weekend and an Animal Fair and Quest credos in May; a Navy retirement ceremony and guest preaching in Florida in June. And those are just some highlights.
It’s been quite a year, among an accumulation of special years.
It’s not all been joyful, of course. We’ve bid farewell to some special people — some have died, some have moved, some have decided that UUCC no longer is the right congregation for them. We have experienced — are experiencing daily — the effects of what’s happening in the world and our country… of negativity and regressive policies and hatred and neo-Confederacy. We have engaged in conflict internally and externally. We have said and done embarrassing things. We have inflicted harm. We have been hurt.
And we keep coming back to this extraordinarily imperfect congregation that offers grounding and challenge and encouragement and disruption and inspiration.
With deep gratitude, I will embark on a 6-week break* beginning Monday, July 2. And with equally deep gratitude, I will return to our shared work in the middle of August.
May you be well and nourished, until we meet again.
* Some have asked why I take this extended break each summer. The short answer is that my Letter of Agreement calls for four weeks of vacation and four weeks of study leave each year. And the truth is that it’s critical for my health and well-being and for the sustainability of ministry. Nearly all full-time Unitarian Universalist parish ministers are granted this amount of annual leave, for at least two reasons — (1) The average work week during the program year is 6 days, not 5. (My only day “off” is Monday.) (2) Without a common lectionary or standardized liturgy or liturgical calendar, each worship service is prepared essentially from a blank slate, and we clergy are expected to be well-read and conversant on many topics, far beyond a single scriptural text. So, thank you for the time.