Telling the Stories of Sabbatical

I’m nearing the end of my nearly-15 week sabbatical. My first, after 7 years serving Foothills through major transitions, occasional upheaval, a big surge in (numerical, organizational, spiritual) growth, and the election of 2016 (aka liberal existenstial crisis).

All of this means that I should’ve been SO ready for sabbatical, for the break and the freedom, and the moment to just let it all – sink in. And I was. And also, I wasn’t sure. I wasn’t sure how I would handle what I came to call my “extreme availability,” and I wasn’t sure if I’d get over my FOMO for what was going on at church.

I’m happy to report that whatever fears or hesitations I had about sabbatical came to end by approximately day 6, and at about 5 weeks, I was starting to wonder why I hadn’t asked for more time.

Many days, especially in the early weeks, I could feel myself transported back in time. To summer vacations when I was seven, or ten, or twelve. Before summer jobs, or jobs at all. Laying out on the deck of my grandparents’ house at Lake Sutherland, reading books or magazines, or playing games with my sisters and cousins, getting hot in the sun until we all decided it was time to go back and jump in the lake. I remembered unencumbered play time, and whole days filled with fire pits, sunscreen, watermelon, anthills, rowboats, and inner tubes. Without any clear sense of a schedule, or a deadline – let alone emails.

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That side of my family – my dad’s side – are amazing at filling days with fun. Work, too, I should say. There is always some sort of problem being solved, some theory being tested, some new technology being tried – when you’re with them. But also, there’s always a card game, and an open seat, pancakes on the griddle and coffee in the percolater(whatever time you wake up), a tire swing to push, a volleyball game to join, and stars to count at night. And, as I began to make my way into to the new and sweet world of “extreme availability,” I felt them guiding me.

Even my partner has admitted how shocked she has been at how easily I have taken to sabbatical. Which doesn’t mean the whole sabbatical can be told as one big summer vacation – although, that is part of the story. Instead, I’ve started to think of the past 3 and a half months as a time that can be told in so many different ways, different focus points that might at first seem totally disconnected, but when held together at least begin to mark this time-out-of-time. This luxurious, abundant, unbelievable gift – one that I now feel clear that a) everyone in the whole world should get and b) need not generate fear, but only endless gratitude and eager surrender.

And so, over the next few weeks, as I transition back into church life, I’m going to share some of these stories of my sabbatical – ways to tell about this time. My hope is to both share some about what has been one of the more solitary experiences of my life – and also to be able to remember these days, this gift, this set-aside time – long after I have returned to regular life.

Sabbatical Stories (updated with links once posted)

  1. Shallots
  2. Poetry
  3. Shows
  4. Reunion
  5. Weeds
  6. Colors
  7. Podcasts
  8. Ducks and Snakes
  9. Peaches
  10. Unfinished Things

About Rev. Gretchen Haley

Gretchen Haley is relentlessly curious about most things, especially the big stuff of theology, the beauty of creation, the magic of collaboration, and the great joy of pop culture (reflected in this blog by random posts on Beyonce, Taylor Swift, Scandal, Orphan Black, or the latest Marvel movie). She has an audacious ambition for the liberal church, believing in its capacity to transform lives and our world by way of hyper-local relationships and partnerships that inspire the unleashing of courageous love. She's all in on adrienne maree brown's emergent strategy, and finds solace in the trails in and around Fort Collins Colorado where she serves with the brilliant Rev. Sean Neil-Barron as one of the ministers of the Foothills Unitarian Church. She and her amazing partner of 19 years, Carri, have 2 children, Gracie (13) and Josef (11) who both relish and resent being PKs, and who keep her grounded, frustrated, inspired, and humbled, everyday. She is basically obsessed with her puppy, a large sized mutt, Charlie.
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